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Tsitsipas – Melbourne finalist who was ‘a few breaths from dying’

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Tsitsipas - Melbourne finalist who was 'a few breaths from dying'

Stefanos Tsitsipas will become Greece’s first Grand Slam champion and a world number one if he wins the Australian Open final on Sunday — he will have his father to thank if he does.

There are not many athletes whose careers and outlooks have been forged by near-death experiences, but the 24-year-old world number four is an exception.

In 2015, while taking part in a third-tier event in Crete, a teenage Tsitsipas and a friend went swimming and almost fatally misjudged the strength of the currents.

“We couldn’t breathe, I felt awful to be inside the water and was terrified. I didn’t know how all this was going to end,” Tsitsipas once recalled.

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“My father saw us from afar and he jumped in, started swimming towards us and pushed us towards the beach. I was just a few breaths away from dying.

“If we were supposed to die and lose our lives that day, we would have to do it together. My father was a hero.

“That was the day I saw life with a different perspective. I remember after that how much psychologically it changed me.”

Tsitsipas shares the same birthday as Pete Sampras — August 12 — and is studious, contemplative.

Stefanos Tsitsipas signs autographs after his victory against Russia’s Karen Khachanov

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He speaks Greek, English and Russian, and has dabbled in Spanish and Chinese.

Sporting family

Sport is in his genes. Life-saving Apostolos is his coach while mother Julia Salnikova is an ex-tennis pro.

His grandfather, Sergei Salnikov, was a 1956 Olympic gold medallist in football playing for the Soviet Union.

Since turning pro in 2016, Tsitsipas’s career has been on a steadily upward curve.

He was ranked 210 in the world in his first season but was inside the top 100 by the end of 2017 and as high as five in 2018, the first Greek to achieve such a status.

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By the time he was 21 he had already swept wins over the sport’s three biggest beasts — Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Tsitsipas was the first Greek man to win a tour title and has claimed nine in total, but a Grand Slam crown has remained elusive.

He hopes that will change when he faces Djokovic in Sunday’s Australian Open final. Victory would also make him world number one for the first time.

His only previous major final was in 2021 when he came agonisingly close to the French Open crown, racing into a two-set lead in the final over Djokovic before the Serb mounted an epic comeback to claim victory.

His biggest win to date came while he was still 21. He captured the 2019 season-ending ATP Finals title, becoming the youngest champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001.

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‘Very smart’

Blond-haired and standing 6ft 4ins (1.93m) tall, Tsitsipas has long been touted as a possible heir to Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

He comes across as one of tennis’s more rounded players, but he can be feisty too.

He has developed an intriguing rivalry with Daniil Medvedev, another coming up fast behind the “Big Three”.

The Russian once described Tsitsipas’s game as “boring”.

Tsitsipas branded Medvedev an “(expletive) Russian” in a fiery encounter in Miami.

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His Melbourne opponent Djokovic, no stranger to controversy himself, is a fan.

“He is a hard worker, dedicated, nice guy,” the Serb once said.

“He’s very smart and wise. I love the fact that he is more than just a tennis player and he’s always looking to learn from experience and to understand something new about himself.

“That’s the trait of a champion, of someone who has great potential to be number one in the world and win Slams and be a great ambassador for the sport.”

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Medvedev called umpire ‘small cat’ during Wimbledon rant

Medvedev called umpire ‘small cat’ during Wimbledon rant

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Medvedev called umpire 'small cat' during Wimbledon rant

Daniil Medvedev bizarrely called umpire Eva Asderaki a “small cat” during the Wimbledon rant that earned the Russian a code violation in his semi-final loss against Carlos Alcaraz on Friday.

Medvedev was beaten 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 by defending champion Alcaraz in a repeat of his defeat to the Spaniard at the same stage of last year’s Wimbledon.

The volatile 28-year-old was handed a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct by Asderaki after his angry reaction to a ball that was ruled to have bounced twice before he hit it.

He narrowly failed to reach the Alcaraz drop-shot and was broken in the ninth game of the first set.

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The tournament referee and supervisor were summoned to Centre Court by Asderaki after fifth seed Medvedev’s furious outburst.

But despite the potential for a disqualification, Medvedev was allowed to continue, winning the first set before eventually succumbing to the relentless Alcaraz.

Asked what he said to Asderaki, the former US Open champion revealed his unusual insult, without explaining what he meant by his choice of words.

“I would say small cat, the words are nice, but the meaning was not nice here,” Medvedev said.

Medvedev claimed he had a previous run-in with Asderaki at the 2022 French Open and was frustrated to be on the wrong end of another double-bounce decision from the umpire.

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“I don’t know if it was double bounce or not. I thought no. That was tricky. The thing is that once long ago Roland Garros against (Marin) Cilic I lost, and she didn’t see that was one bounce. So I had this in my mind. I thought, again, against me,” he said.

“I said something in Russian, not unpleasant, but not over the line. So I got a code for it.”

The six-time Grand Slam finalist, who has never won Wimbledon, insisted he was not worried that he would be kicked out for his latest clash with the official.

“Not at all because, as I say, I didn’t say anything too bad,” he said.

“The thing is that I think it would be so much easier with a challenge system. The challenge system shows a bounce. So if there was a bounce, it would show it.

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“Then if we use it, we would never have this situation. So I don’t know why don’t we use the challenge system for double bounce, the Hawk-Eye or whatever.”

It is not the first time Medvedev has used the “small cat” description for an official.

In his 2022 Australian Open semi-final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Medvedev used the same expression in a rant at umpire Jaume Campistol.

On that occasion, Medvedev was irked by the constant talking from Tsitsipas’s father, who was sitting courtside, but he later apologised to Campistol for his rant.

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Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

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Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz reached his fourth Grand Slam final at Wimbledon on Friday when he recovered from a set down to defeat Daniil Medvedev.

World number three Alcaraz beat his fifth-ranked opponent 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and will face either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Musetti for the title on Sunday.

Twice Medvedev led with breaks in the first set only to be pinned back by Alcaraz.

Such was his frustration that he was handed a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct by umpire Eva Asderaki for an apparent foul-mouthed reaction to a ball called for bouncing twice as he was broken in the ninth game.

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The tournament referee was even summoned to Centre Court by Asderaki, but Medvedev shrugged off the incident to sweep through the tie-break and take the opening set in which he committed only eight unforced errors to the Spaniard’s 15.

It was the third time at this year’s Wimbledon that Alcaraz had dropped the first set.

Alcaraz recovered impressively, breaking Medvedev for a 3-1 lead in the second having come out on top in the previous game on the back of a 27-shot rally.

The 21-year-old then hit 14 winners in the third set, pocketing the only break in the third game.

Medvedev, who had knocked out world number one Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals, retrieved a break early in the fourth set.

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But Alcaraz kept up his assault, edging ahead again for 4-3 on his way to victory.

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Djokovic, Alcaraz to meet again in Wimbledon final blockbuster

Djokovic, Alcaraz to meet again in Wimbledon final blockbuster

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Djokovic, Alcaraz to meet again in Wimbledon final blockbuster

Novak Djokovic swept past Lorenzo Musetti on Friday to book a second successive Wimbledon final against defending champion Carlos Alcaraz and move one win away from a record-setting 25th Grand Slam title.

Just five weeks after undergoing knee surgery, seven-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic reached his 10th final at the All England Club with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 win over the Italian 25th seed.

Alcaraz defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to reach a fourth Grand Slam final.

Djokovic, 37, can equal Roger Federer’s record of eight Wimbledon titles and become the tournament’s oldest champion of the modern era if he avenges last year’s final loss to Alcaraz.

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“I have said it many times Wimbledon has been a childhood dream for me to play it and to win it,” said Djokovic, who left Serbia in his youth to train in Germany after escaping the NATO bombing of Serbia in the 1990s.

“It is worth repeating I was a seven-year-old boy watching the bombs fly over my head and dreaming of being on the most important court in the world which is here in Wimbledon,” he said.

The last time Djokovic and Musetti met was at the French Open in June when the Serb claimed victory in a third round tie which ended at 3:07 in the morning.

On Friday, however, Djokovic was untroubled on his way to a 37th Grand Slam final.

He broke for 4-2 lead in the opener and, despite surrendering the advantage and letting two set points slip in the ninth game, he broke again in the 10th to claim the set.

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The second seed was playing in his 49th Grand Slam semi-final while the 22-year-old Musetti was in his first.

That experience was key as Djokovic hit back from losing serve in the opening game of the second set to level in the sixth before dominating the tie-break.

A break in the opening game of the third set launched him on his way to victory against a demoralised Musetti, who saved three match points before Djokovic completed his progress to yet another Wimbledon final.

“I feel a little sad but I have to say Novak played an incredible match,” said Musetti.

“He showed that he’s in great shape, not only in tennis but physically.”

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He added: “We have played seven times but I have never seen Novak play like this today.”

Alcaraz defeated Djokovic in the 2023 Wimbledon final in a five-set thriller.

‘REALLY DIFFICULT’

Victory on Sunday would make him only the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles back to back.

“Obviously it will be a really difficult match,” said Alcaraz.

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“But I feel like I am not new anymore. I know how I am going to feel before the final. I have been in this position before.”

Alcaraz crunched 55 winners to the 31 from Medvedev in his semi-final.

Medvedev, beaten by the Spaniard at the same stage last year, twice led with breaks in the first set only to be pegged back.

Such was his frustration that he was handed a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct by umpire Eva Asderaki for an apparent foul-mouthed reaction to a ball called for bouncing twice as he was broken in the ninth game.

The tournament referee and supervisor were summoned to Centre Court by Asderaki, but Medvedev shrugged off the incident to sweep through the tie-break and take the opening set.

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“I said something in Russian, not unpleasant, but not over the line. So I got a code for it,” Medvedev said of his outburst.

It was the third time at this year’s Wimbledon that Alcaraz had dropped the first set.

Alcaraz recovered impressively, breaking Medvedev for a 3-1 lead in the second, having come out on top in the previous game on the back of a 27-shot rally.

The 21-year-old then hit 14 winners in the third set, pocketing the only break in the third game.

Medvedev, who had knocked out world number one Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals, retrieved a break early in the fourth set.

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But Alcaraz kept up his assault, edging ahead again for 4-3 on his way to victory.

“Probably in my career he’s the toughest opponent I have faced. But I have time to try to do better,” said Medvedev after a fifth defeat in seven matches against Alcaraz.

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