Men’s tennis, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the helm, has probably been in its most politest phase for a decade and a half.
But according to ATP Next Gen star Stefanos Tsitsipas it is still a lonely, lonely world out there.
“I was an introverted child and didn’t have many friends (growing up),” the enigmatic Greek wrote in Behind the Racquet on Thursday.
“When I started playing on tour, I thought I would develop friendships but it turned out to be the opposite. Most players keep to themselves. I feel like players don’t want to become friends because they think someone will grab a secret from you to beat you. I guess they’re just too serious about the whole thing. Friends would make traveling less lonely.
“Tennis is a very introverted sport and we face everything alone. We have a team that follows us all over the world but I have spent countless sleepless nights on my own. All the traveling and competing causes a lot of stress and I grew very lonely.”
Living up to potential
The 21-year-old won the 2018 Next Gen Finals in Milan and reached a career high ranking of world No 5 in August 2019.
A mercurial talent with a versatile game, Tsitsipas is one of the most exciting young talents in the sport. He has also become the bread earner for his family.
“In 2018, I broke into the Top 15 and was seeded in Grand Slams,” he added.
“That’s when I understood my potential. In the beginning, I traveled with only my dad. Now, I travel with my dad, mom, and three siblings. I’m the main source of income for my family.”
Tsitsipas grew up when the Greek economy was falling apart and within his family also he could see the perils of unemployment.
“There was a time when I wasn’t doing well. I started to play futures and was doubting myself. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to play professional tennis.
Young, dumb & broke pic.twitter.com/t2Zt8WLKnX
— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) July 20, 2020
“My country was on the verge of bankruptcy. The entire population was suffering. My father’s siblings were unemployed and couldn’t feed their families. People looked at me like I was the one ruling the country and they thought I was part of the problem.
“I felt isolated. I wasn’t home to see what was going on because I was traveling. I needed support. My mental coach shared his wisdom and inspired me.
“Then I said to myself, ‘You’ve dedicated your entire life to tennis, you can’t just give up. You’ve got to keep going.’ I play tennis to prove that my country has a great history and can achieve success.”
Tsitsipas’ major breakthrough came in 2019, when he defeated Roger Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open and romped to the final four. Later in the year, he won the ATP Tour Finals in London.
The Greek is scheduled to participate in the 2020 US Open tune-up event — The Western and Southern Open– next.