Tennis: 'Strength of Navy SEAL' needed to win French Open: Tsitsipas

AFP , Wednesday 31 May 2023

Stefanos Tsitsipas believes he'll need to have the mental and physical strength of an elite, battle-hardened special forces commando to break through to a maiden Grand Slam title.

Greece s Stefanos Tsitsipas gestures as he celebrates after winning against Spain s Roberto Carballes Baena during their men s singles match on day four of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on May 31, 2023. Photo: AFP


The Greek world number five came agonisingly close to winning the French Open in 2021 when he surrendered a two-sets lead to lose in five to Novak Djokovic.

It's a memory which still haunts him, especially after losing to the Serbian superstar again in January in the final of the Australian Open.

"There are a few guys that can play good under pressure, especially in big, tight moments, and you have to have the mental strength of a Navy SEAL to pull it through," said Tsitsipas, hailing the crack US special forces unit.

Tsitsipas made the French Open last 32 for the fourth year in succession on Wednesday with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 victory over Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena.

As well as making two Grand Slam finals, the 24-year-old has fallen at the semi-finals on four occasions -- twice to bitter rival Daniil Medvedev (2020 and 2021 Australian Open) and to Djokovic (2020 French Open) and Rafael Nadal (2019 Australian Open).

In his quest, he has resorted to consulting Rafael's Nadal autobiography because he "kind of shows you that anyone can do it".

"You have to have the physique of a marathon runner, the lungs of a marathon runner. You have to have the power of a football player," added Tsitsipas when asked what constitutes a Grand Slam champion.

"There are so many little components that you have to link up in order to make this unbelievable player where you allow yourself to be unstoppable."

Tsitsipas racked up his 50th Grand Slam win in the first round against Jiri Vesely while Wednesday's victory against Carballes Baena was his 20th at Roland Garros.

"I get excited when I see personal records being kind of set and broken," he added.

Another of Tsitsipas's ambitions is to deliver a first Davis Cup title to Greece.

However, he is his country's only player in the world's top 500 so if an unlikely triumph in the prestigious team event is ever to be secured, it would require Greece to have a reliable doubles pairing.

That's where his brother Petros, who is Greece's top-ranked doubles player, enters the equation.

The Tsitispas brothers were beaten in the first round in Paris on Tuesday, losing in a final set tiebreak to Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer.

"Trust me, it sucks. To be losing that with your brother, it sucks more than usually," said Stefanos.

"I'm doing this for my brother. I don't think I would have done this for anyone else. One of our own personal dreams is winning Davis Cup together. Doing that with your brother is probably the most beautiful thing you can witness on a tennis court."

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