Australian Open: Tsitsipas keen to ‘keep it simple’

andrew hendrie:

Stefanos Tsitsipas is ready to embrace the pressure of defending his Australian Open semi-final points when he returns to Melbourne Park to open his campaign on Monday night against Salvatore Caruso of Italy.

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Tsitsipas made his big Grand Slam breakthrough at the Australian Open 12 months ago, scoring a marquee victory over Roger Federer in the fourth round before going on to make his first semi-final, where he was ultimately outclassed by Rafael Nadal in straight sets.

The Greek star went on to add three more ATP titles to his trophy cabinet throughout 2019, including the biggest triumph of his career at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London, where he beat Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Federer and Dominic Thiem en route to the silverware.

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Finishing the season at No. 6 in the world, Tsitsipas is expected to challenge for a major title in 2020 – but just how will he deal with that added pressure, especially after winning the ATP Finals just a couple of months ago?

Tsitsipas first experienced the pressure of defending a lot of ranking points at the Canada Masters last year after reaching the final in 2018 – and he was subsequently bounced in the opening round by Hubert Hurkacz.

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The 21-year-old says he has learned from that moment and will just try and ‘keep it simple’ ahead of his Australian Open campaign.

“I really had stress before the Montreal tournament last year, knowing that I did finals in Toronto [in 2018],” said Tsitsipas. “After losing… I was like, ‘Why should you be so stressed? There’s no point.’

“Just start fresh, it’s a new tournament, don’t think of what happened in the past, and try to play your best, compete your best. I think if you think of it too much, it just ruins your game. So keep it simple.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece with his coach and father during an Australian Open practise session (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

Tsitsipas lit up Melbourne Park last year as he thrilled fans with his dynamic and attacking brand of all-court tennis, and the Greek is looking forward to repeating that effort in 2020.

Despite a blow-up during the ATP Cup for Greece when he accidentally grazed his father on the arm while smashing his racquet, Tsitsipas says he has been working on keeping his temper on court during the off-season.

“I found more balance within me,” said Tsitsipas. “Before I was very inconsistent with my emotions. I could become, in a few of the matches, suddenly angry and frustrated… I’ve been really working on this. I think being balanced in my head and thinking in a straight line will help me.

“I’m going to try it. I mean, I hope it helps me grow as a player. I think balance is important for someone to grow. If you are just one day on, one day off with your emotions, they can cost you.”

Tsitsipas will get his campaign underway on Monday night on Margaret Court Arena against Salvatore Caruso.

Caruso, a 27-year-old ranked No. 94 in the world, has never won a match at the Australian Open, but he did make the third round of the French Open last year.