Dubai: The most exciting new star to arrive on the ATP Tour in recent years is ready to make his second bid for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title.
Stefanos Tsitsipas arrived in Dubai a year ago as a budding superstar after upsetting Roger Federer at the Australian Open. Although Federer avenged that defeat in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final to claim his eighth Dubai crown and the 100th singles title of his career, Tsitsipas overcame Federer again in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals in London before going on to win one of the biggest prizes in the sport with victory over Dominic Thiem.
“The rise of Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last year has been astonishing,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “His performances here in Dubai a year ago clearly demonstrated that his victory over Roger Federer in Melbourne was not going to be just an isolated success, and he has gone on to become one of the most promising of the new generation of players to be a contender for a Grand Slam title. We wish him well both here in the upcoming Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and in the future.”
Just three years before winning the ATP season-ending finale, Tsitsipas had been invited to the event as the junior world No. 1 to be a hitting partner to the ‘big boys’, and now he has become the champion. It was only a matter of time before he made an impact at the highest level, as in 2018 he was named as ATP Newcomer of the Year after he won the ATP NextGen event designed to showcase the rising stars of the game.
The tennis world has waited for a long time for someone to emerge who might consistently challenge the dominance of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, especially at Grand Slam level, and Stefanos feels he is now ready to take that next step and become a Grand Slam champion.
“I feel like my game is getting better over time, and I believe I’m really close on being crowned a Grand Slam champion,” he said after his ATP Finals victory. “I know these are strong words that I say, but I do feel like I belong to be there.”
But he doesn’t go into a Slam feeling he is trying to win it. He has taken to heart the words of one of those he is hoping to dethrone, Nadal.
“The thing is, if I put myself in a state of mind that I need to win this Grand Slam now, it doesn’t work this way. Rafa said it in the past ‘I’m not playing to win the tournament. I’m playing to win every single match that I’m about to go and play’. So that’s how it works.”
He is under no illusion about the difficulty of the task ahead, but he believes the doorway to success will come, not from beating one of the established champions in the semis or final, but in them falling early in the tournament when he feels they are perhaps more vulnerable.
“Someone needs to get the job done, like, in order to defeat them (in the) early rounds, because once they get deep in a tournament they tend, as we saw over the years, to play, to get better and play better, feel better.”
He also believes that the best-of-five sets format favours the more experienced stars, saying, “For me, that’s a really difficult task to do for players, to be able to beat them in these Grand Slams, because it’s the best-of-five format and it just gives them more chances to stay in the match. I think if things were best-of-three, it could have been much more different when it comes to Grand Slam champions over the years.”
“It is great to see a new face emerge to offer a genuine challenge to those who have long dominated the game, and Stefanos Tsitsipas has shown himself to be a worthy contender for top honours for many years to come,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “It will be interesting not only to see if he can match his excellent 2019 performances here in Dubai, but how he builds upon and exceeds the success he enjoyed throughout last season.”
The tournament begins with the 20th anniversary celebrations of the WTA event which runs from February 17 to 22 and then continues between February 24 and 29 with the ATP tournament.
Tickets are available at www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com