LONDON: The rise of Stefanos Tsitsipas is one of the feel-good stories of tennis this year but the Greek world number six with the infectious smile and aggressive game will be out of his comfort zone as the grass-court season builds up to Wimbledon.
The 20-year-old, who reached the Australian Open last four and won titles on clay (Estoril) and indoor hard courts (Marseille) this year, has had a difficult time of it on the surface.
A first-round straight-sets loss to world number 55 Nicolas Jarry in s-Hertogenbosch was followed by another straight sets quarter-final loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime at Queens.
Tsitsipas won two matches before facing the Canadian teen but even against world number 65 Jeremy Chardy in the round of 16 he struggled, coming from a set down to win with two tie breaks.
“I am happy with the way I played,” Tsitsipas said after his exit in London. “Did a lot of things. I can take a lot of things from that and move on.
“I gained some experience and some understanding of the game on grass. The difference between clay and grass, you have to stay lower. You have to have fast anticipation and not necessarily play extreme tennis. You have to play clean. You have to come to the net.”
Getting experience on a surface that has a very short season is crucial if he is to match last year’s run to the last 16 in the Grand Slam and give heavyweights Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic a run for their money.
The trio, together with Andy Murray, have won every singles title at Wimbledon since 2003.
“I would love to see something different this year,” said Tsitsipas. “Hopefully it can be me. But I think it is good for the sport to have a little bit of variety.
“I mean, it’s boring to see these guys win all the time. We are responsible, as the new generation, to work hard and believe in ourselves if we can come up with something new, come up with our best games to beat those guys.”
Last year he still had the element of surprise on his side being relatively unknown on the Tour. This year he is a household name and little of his game remains a secret.
“Players know me. Players know what to expect. So I really hope I do well and leave from grass court season with great memories and great moments from that surface,” he said.