Greek young gun, Stefanos Tsitsipas says he is learning to enjoy the sport more as he moves forward in his career.
Tsitsipas is coming off a career best season in 2019, when he claimed a trio of titles in Marseille, Estoril and the Nitto ATP Finals, reached finals in Dubai, Madrid and Beijing, and broke into the top ten.
Overall, he was 53-25 on tour last season, peaking at a career-high No. 5.
Despite those impressive numbers, Tsitsipas wasn’t without his dips in 2019. The Greek lost five matches in a row between August and September, falling at the first hurdles in Montreal, Cincinnati, the US Open and Zhuhai.
The world No. 6 admits that he was trying too hard at the time, but he has learnt to take things a little easier and try to enjoy the game a bit more.
“I was trying to get better and better, but I started to go backwards — when you put in so much work and effort, but it has the reverse effect”, Tsitsipas said. “But that’s what happened, and I knew I had to loosen up and not to expect too much. I had to enjoy the game, and not go out to get a big lead and win. You can’t get everything perfectly done.”
“Burnout is a mixture of a lot of things – stress before and after the match, and trying to reach your goals”
“It’s mostly mental, rather than physical, but it’s about just having a good balance on and off the court. Not so much seeing tennis as a job, more as a game. I feel like I took it too seriously at times, I expected too much, demanded too much. The more matches you have, with that mindset, the closer you are to burnout”.
Starting 2019 outside the top-90, Tsitsipas caused a stunning upset with a fourth round victory over Roger Federer at the Australian Open, but he was well beaten by Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, falling 6-2 6-4 6-0 to the great Spaniard.
Tsitsipas says he was hurt by the heaviness of that defeat, but he understands that such losses are part of his development, amd will only make him a better player.
“Tough losses are important for my career as they make me want to come back stronger, and without them I feel like I’m perfect: which I’m not”.
“They are crucial for everyone. That semi-final loss was painful, even though it was in three sets. I came so close to reaching a Grand Slam final, something I have always dreamed of doing. I also didn’t deliver much in that match, he played well. It was a shame, as I’d played well in the two weeks. I went back to the court two days [later] and started to improve”.
The talented Greek might have had some bad patches last season, but it was still a pretty special campaign. He’s now got the difficult job of trying to reproduce those performances in the new season. He’s made an average start to the year, going 1-2 at the ATP Cup, and losing to Milos Raonic in the third round of the Australian Open. While admitting the toughness of the task, Tsitsipas is keen to do even better this year.
“I feel like I need to loosen up sometimes and enjoy the game. I also think I can’t play at 100 per cent every single point. I had a pretty spectacular year [in 2019] and the toughest thing will be doing the same this year, through different formulas. I don’t want to duplicate, but I want to do better. I am always aiming for more.”
The young gun is competing in Rotterdam this week, where he takes on Hubert Hurkacz in the first round on Tuesday. Read the full match preview here.