Tsitsipas the student 'chasing something spectacular'

 - Alex Sharp

The Greek rose to the challenge and produced his first win over the talented Russian.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland Garros 2020, quarter-final© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Hearing Stefanos Tsitsipas in interviews or press conferences, you quickly realise his philosophical nature.

The 22-year-old is a student off all sorts. The Greek invites his fans into his world through social media, whether its travel, inspirational quotes or photography, he covers a wealth of topics.

That ultimately transfers to his tennis.

The No.5 seed gained revenge for the recent Hamburg final loss to dismiss Russian No.13 seed Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 off the back of 35 winners, to clinch a maiden Roland-Garros semi-final on Wednesday.

It was a performance layered with what makes Tsitsipas a major contender. Mixing up prolonged rallies, with darts to the net; remarkable flexibility and athleticism were joined by grilled groundstrokes.

The Greek won 16 of the final 21 games to race to victory in one hour and 55 minutes. Tsitsipas has now reeled off 15 consecutive sets since falling behind by two sets to Spain's Jaume Munar in the first round.

Having soared from the Next Gen scene, the Greek is probing for that much-coveted Grand Slam breakthrough.

Watching Roland-Garros 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem lift the US Open trophy last month clearly struck a chord with Tsitsipas.

“I'm happy to be playing well enough, also to be part of something so special. Not Next Gen anymore. We are all young. I guess you can call it that way,” explained the ATP Finals champion.

“Dominic inspires me a lot. What Dominic has achieved is amazing. Being able to have back-to-back finals here at the French is truly inspiring. Dominic is someone that makes me understand the game and makes me want to push even further to reach what he has reached.

“He's a nice guy off the court. Big workaholic on the court. He’s very balanced, he's a very passionate person in every aspect. We're good friends. I think I can learn a lot from him and add it to my game. From the young guys, he's someone that I really look up to.”

That’s some seriously high praise from Tsitsipas who sits only three ranking spots below Thiem at world No.6. 

However, the Greek has maintained he has always been a student of the game, even skipping school classes to catch a glimpse of Roland-Garros on TV.

“I think I was the only one to skip school to watch tennis. Back then, no one played tennis back then. I'm sure now it's more often that kids get to skip school for the French, given the fact there are so many kids playing tennis in Greece now, it is great to see,” mused Tsitsipas.

“I remember watching Santoro. That six hours long match against Clement, I think. Yeah, my physio Jerome was part of it, which is great how we united. You know how small this world is.

“I watched some epic thrillers, five-set matches. Maybe Llodra, Nicolas Mahut, players like this. Especially the matches that were outside Philippe-Chatrier and Suzanne-Lenglen, there were some epic fights on these courts.

“Of course, my favourites Nadal and Federer. Always there watching them play. It was just before summer starts, kicks in. That was on before our school ends, so it was a great time.”

Learning from Thiem’s breakout, his childhood flashbacks to the greats... now its Tsitsipas’ time to make his own memories on the terre battue. 

The charismatic Greek equalled his best Grand Slam showing on Wednesday, having previously advanced to the semi-finals at Australian Open 2019.

He’s taken Grand Slam defeats heavily, struggling to explain the losses.

The 22-year-old was devastated to come up short in a five-set cracker with Stan Wawrinka at Roland-Garros last year and he surrendered six match points to fall to Borna Coric at the US Open last month. Plenty of promise, but plenty of heartache.

Now Tsitsipas is thrilled to be on the brink of another major step, once again learning from Melbourne two years ago.

“You cannot expect anything. I wasn't expecting playing semi-finals of the Australian Open to start first. It's a dream, of course. But 'expect'? I'm expecting since a young age to potentially triumph at these Grand Slams. I'm happy that I'm able to be in a position where I am today. Yeah, it's very, very satisfying,” declared the No.5 seed.

“I think I can learn from the previous one. I'm chasing something spectacular." 

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Roland Garros 2020, quarter-final© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Tsitsipas will need something spectacular to prevail past either an ailing world No.1 Novak Djokovic or the stubbornly consistent Pablo Carreno Busta in the last four.

“An opponent is an opponent. Doesn't matter if he is injured or not. Novak or Carreno, we don't know who it's going to be,” he added, eager to concentrate on himself.

“No, an injury is not going to play anything. I have to play the way I have to play. We might as well just forget about it because I'm approaching that match with the same intensity and the same focus that I've been doing the last few matches.”