Reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas likes to explore the cities he visits during his travels on the ATP Tour. But when a reporter asked him on Sunday ahead of the Fever-Tree Championships where he would like to visit in London, the World No. 6 did not mention a tourist attraction.
“I would love to see myself playing in The O2 Arena in November,” Tsitsipas said.
The Greek star is trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time, and he is off to a good start. Tsitsipas is in fifth place in the ATP Race To London, and he holds a 1,230-point lead over sixth-placed Kei Nishikori. The Top 8 players in the Race qualify for the season finale, to be held at The O2 from 10-17 November.
But for now, Tsitsipas will focus on the present, as he is the top seed at Queen’s Club. The three-time ATP Tour titlist is pursuing his first tour-level grass-court trophy.
“I haven’t really showed anything yet on grass in my opinion,” said Tsitsipas, who faces home favourite Kyle Edmund in the first round. “It can always be tricky when there are so many different surfaces that you need to adjust and adapt to throughout the year. I only had one match last week [in ‘s-Hertogenbosch]. I haven’t really felt everything that I have to feel here on grass, so I might say it’s going to take quite a while to adjust to those new conditions on which I haven’t played for a year now.”
It will be Tsitsipas’ first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Edmund. The Greek will be looking to get back on track after being upset in his first match at the Libema Open by Chilean Nicolas Jarry.
“I think we’re pretty equal,” Tsitsipas said of facing Edmund. “He hasn’t played a match as well, so it’s all going to be a matter of right decisions and concentration levels because everything’s happening very fast on grass.”
Tsitsipas has fond memories of this surface from his junior career, when he made the boys’ singles semi-finals at Wimbledon and won the boys’ doubles title. As a professional, he reached the fourth round at the grass-court Grand Slam last year.
That leaves him confident that he is capable of performing well during this swing. However, he knows it will take an adjustment from how he played on clay, where he made the final in Madrid, semi-final in Rome and captured the trophy in Estoril.
“There’re a lot of differences between clay and grass. You have to stay lower, you have to have faster anticipation and not necessarily play extreme tennis. You have to play clean, you have to come to the net,” Tsitsipas said. “Instead of trying to spin the ball a lot, or trying to open the court, that doesn’t really work on grass. You have to stay low, come to the net, serve well.”
This is the first time that Tsitsipas has been the top seed at an ATP 500 tournament. It’s been a rapid ascent for the 20-year-old, who began the 2018 season at No. 91 in the ATP Rankings. But he does not feel the weight of the expectations that may come with his accomplishments.
“I don’t even watch the draws to be honest. I don’t know who is in my part of the draw. I don’t know who is No. 2,” Tsitsipas said. “I just play. I have to play. I don’t have to think if I’m No. 1 or No. 2. That probably means some players would think about it when they play against you, but if you think of it too much when you play like, ‘I’m the No. 1, I’m the one who is the favourite. I’m the one who everybody expects me to win,’ then you become kind of lazy. You expect everything to come easier to you just because you’re No. 1 or 2 or 3 or 4. I have to play the way I’ve been playing all this time, without thinking of all those small details.”
Tsitsipas may well be the hunted now rather than the hunter. But if nothing else the Greek knows he has to continue his evolution to improve even more.
“Players know me, players know what to expect,” Tsitsipas said. “So I really hope I do well and leave from the grass-court season with great memories and great moments from that surface.”