Stefanos Tsitsipas’s style, and his calm, have already drawn comparisons with 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, yet the Greek sensation may in fact have more in common with claycourt master Rafa Nadal.
The sixth seed reached the second round of the French Open with a no-nonsense 6-2 6-2 7-6 (4) victory against German Maximilian Marterer, with few fans to witness the feat as most of the crowd were grabbing lunch in the revamped Roland Garros before Federer made his return on the new court Philippe Chatrier.
Those who skipped the match missed Tsitsipas’s ease on the red dirt.
“Learning tennis on clay is very good for your body, for your development. It’s a way to learn how to slide, basically learn the basics of tennis,” the 20-year-old told reporters.
“Then you can move to hard (courts). That’s my personal opinion. I probably practised... I don’t know, I might be wrong... but I practised since the age of six up to the age of 14 on clay.
“Probably more than Rafa,” he added with a laugh.
Tsitsipas made a name for himself by beating 11-time French Open champion Rafa Nadal in the Madrid Open semi-finals earlier this month before losing to Novak Djokovic in the final.
The result boosted his confidence ahead of Roland Garros, one of his favorite tournaments — only Wimbledon trumps the Parisian event for him, but the surface is not the reason.
“I like Roland Garros because it’s the only Grand Slam on clay, I grew up playing on clay. I love the crowd. They are very respectful,” he explained.
“Well, obviously they’re going to support the French guys if I play the French guys. The clay makes it very special. And also, I would say that after Wimbledon, Roland Garros is probably one of my favourites.
“My dream is to win it one day because of the history and because of the tradition.”
Next up for Tsitsipas is Bolivian Hugo Dellien, with Federer a potential opponent in the quarter-finals.