Future champion Stefanos Tsitsipas opens up on his ‘shy’ past

Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas opens up on how he shed his shyness to take on a global game

Stefanos Tsitsipas got into an argument with the chair umpire on Monday

Talented and confident, Stefanos Tsitsipas is a superstar in the making. The world No 6 is not only one of the most promising young stars in tennis, but is also very popular on social media. But the Greek revealed that he wasn’t always as outgoing and easy to speak.

“It wasn’t easy for me to talk to people,” Tsitsipas said in an interview with BBC.

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“I guess I was a good observer and a good listener. I was curious about the world. I was very curious to see what people had to say and was learning from them. I was very quiet around my family, always observing.”

He is the eldest of four children. His mother Julia Apostoli, a tennis player from Russia, and Apostolos Tsitsipas, a tennis coach, were the ones who introduced him to the game.

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Like his mother, who played Fed Cup for the Soviet Union, he was ranked world No 1 in juniors. At 16, he started training at Patrick Mouratoglou’s Academy in France.

“Stefanos developed his own inner world,” says Mouratoglou, still coaches Tsitsipas.

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“At the beginning, when he joined in 2015, he was very introverted. He used to stay inside his family environment, away from the others. When people don’t show their emotions, they create a very rich inner life.

“But he understood that I had kind of the same experiences and we talked about it. I think he’s not that shy now. He’s made a lot of progress.”

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Tsitsipas, who is yet to win a Grand Slam, has become one of the most marketable young names in the sport. That is partly because he isn’t hesitant to share his views and feelings over all things non-tennis. Better still if he can vlog it.

“There is no more shyness,” says the 22-year-old. “I’m a person who likes to capture moments of my life, have my thoughts and my experiences shared online because that’s how it works these days.

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“Tennis is a lonely sport so having hobbies and things to do except playing tennis is very important for someone’s mental well-being. My grandfather Sergei was also a producer, a screenwriter. He enjoyed doing that, I guess it comes from my Russian side and it’s in my blood.”

His maternal grandfather Sergei Salnikov won a gold medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics with the Soviet Union football team. Tsitsipas is hoping to carve a slice of glory for himself in Melbourne at the upcoming Australian Open.

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“I’m sure if I win the Grand Slam I would make my grandfather very proud. If I work hard enough and have a little bit of luck, too, then, yes,” he said. “It would be the best moment of my career, for sure.”