By the time you read this, it has already been decided whether the peerless Roger Federer had kept his date with his 100th ATP title in Dubai or the young Stefanos Tsitsipas has once again stolen the thunder from the Swiss master.
Either way, there is no denying the fact that the long haired, good looking Greek is a precocious talent who has all the makings of being the next big thing in tennis.
Living under the shadows of the ‘Big Four’ for far too long, the men’s tennis had been on the lookout for the new kid on the block — who could make the grade with a combination of serious talent and saleability. It’s still early days to declare if the 20-year-old can deliver on all the fronts, but he has got the game’s fraternity sit up since last season and take note with his recent exploits.
The New Year brought good tidings for him when Tsitsipas surprised Federer — in four gruelling sets — in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.
He followed it up with the Marseille Open title last week, then ploughed through the opposition before rallying against the crafty Gael Monfils after being a set and 3-1 down in the semi-final in Dubai.
The engrossing semi-final on Friday showed the young tyro has the variation in his game, as well as the resilience to overcome the odds against quality opposition — so necessary to thrive in the bigger scenario.
The groundstrokes of Tsitsipas can match the best and contrary to the current Gen Next of baseline warriors, he showed repeatedly against the Frenchman that he was willing to take calculated risks at the net.
To refresh the memory a bit, the youngster made history last season when he became the youngest player to beat four top-10 opponents at an event (Toronto) since the ATP World Tour began in 1990.
His victims were Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson, and it took someone like Rafael Nadal to end his run in the final on his 20th birthday.
He ended 2018 as the top seed at the Next Gen ATP Finals where he defeated Alex de Minaur for the title, emerging as the 2018 ATP Most Improved Player of the Year.
The problem, however, lies elsewhere — and it has largely to do with his callow youth. There have been the odd occasion where Tsitsipas seems to erupt during the course of the match — the racket becoming his anger management tool — as one witnessed during the Dubai semi-finals or in Melbourne.
It was only a few seasons ago when we were preparing to toast the arrival of a new star in the horizon in a certain Nick Kyrgios. The Australian’s implosive nature, disrespect for fellow seniors on the Tour as well as his brushes with his country’s tennis establishment has set him back quite badly — and Kyrgios is now left to play catch-up.
If Tsitsipas wants to pick up the ‘dos’ as he plans his future growth, he just needs to look at his childhood idol Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. As for the ‘dont’s,’ the example of Kyrgios is only at hand.
The choice before Tsitsipas is an obvious one!