Speaking exclusively in an Instagram Live conversation for ‘At Home With Babsi’ on Eurosport’s Instagram page, Stefanos Tsitsipas discusses his current situation, his hero, his future ambition and what his favourite tournament on tour is.
How tough is it to get motivated when the season might not get underway for months?
I have my team with me which is important to me so I don’t lose my schedule. I am trying to stay creative and do other activities besides tennis or fitness with the space we have here [at home in the south of France].
I honestly don’t think about the future. I practice every day, of course I don’t put 100% in but at the same time I’m planning on gradually getting better. It’s important to understand what things have been working for you in the last couple of months and what other things you can improve and get better at. It’s a process, it’s tricky – you have so much time in front of you and you don’t know when things are going to get back to normal. Right now, I am taking it easy, I’m not pushing myself to the limit and I’m not resting and doing nothing. There is a good contrast in between the two.
What is taking it easy for Stefanos Tsitsipas?
It’s a one-and-a-half hour practice, one-hour fitness and that’s it. I then have my treatments, my physio. Then I go for a walk and do other things that I like. It’s not very demanding, not very rough, so in between for me.
What have you discovered about yourself during these times that you didn’t know before?
Life is pretty different being in lockdown. We are in a pause and it feels very different not being able to engage with people, be in places where there are many people you can hang out with other people. It’s about having the daily connections you have with other people. That is something I have missed. I also miss the competition – the travelling, the competing – it gives you another view on life in this situation, one I certainly have not been used to. It takes me back to when I was a young kid and I didn’t travel so much then.
I actually think they should put us in lockdown once a year – it’s good for nature, it’s good for our planet. I actually think it will be environmentally very beneficial. Life is such a hustle, and you never get the time to spend with your family and connect with them. Now it’s an opportunity to do so.
If you could choose a match you would want to re-play, what would you choose?
I wouldn’t mind repeating the match against Rafa Nadal at the Australian Open in 2019 where I got chopped up. I would like to repeat that simply because I am a different player to who I was then. And I think I carry much more experience with me on the court. I have a better understanding of my game plan. It’s no guarantee I would win, but I think I would put up a better fight. Perhaps I would also say Nadal again, but this time in Toronto [in 2018] where I think if I’d have won the second set then it could have been interesting. It was a great week for me, the first set in that final I didn’t play well, I came in a bit sore but then I began to understand the game better and I found my pace. Another one was against Stan Wawrinka at the French Open last year – I felt heartbroken. It was difficult one to get over and I felt I was really close. I felt I deserved to win and I was one inside-out forehand away from getting a break that would have been important. He was more patient and he did really well and his experience counted for a lot. It’s the past and all you can do is learn for the next time.
Who would you like to play who’s not on the tour anymore?
When I was young playing tennis, Pete Sampras was one of my idols. My dad used to watch all of his matches and he was a big fan. I got to meet him at Indian Wells a few years ago which was an astonishing experience. His game style was unique, he can play an amazing serve and volley game and he also has a Greek heritage of course. He was a great athlete and the guy I believe revolutionised the one-handed backhand. I admired him a lot and tried to apply his qualities to my game.
What traits in you are Russian, and which traits in you are Greek? And when are you more your mum or your dad?
It takes toughness to be a professional tennis at a high level I believe – and I think that comes from my Russian part. Russians are so tough, it’s cultural. The Greek side – probably expressing myself and being so philosophical at times. It’s weird sometimes people don’t get it. The creativity I also owe to my Greek side.
Tell us about your grandfather
My grandfather [Sergei Salnikov] who is Russian was considered a legend. He had many interests, but he was particularly good at football and play in the same Russian side as the likes of Yashin. He won a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne playing for the Soviet Union and I would really have liked to meet him. But unfortunately he passed away in his late 50s, he achieved a lot of things – he played for Spartak Moscow and still has a lot of respect for what he did at that club and what he gave with lots of titles. He was very loyal in general. There is some brief footage of him playing on YouTube.
Tell us about your hobbies
It is my dream to make a movie. I don’t necessarily want to be the actor in the movie, I would like to either be the producer or the script writer for the movie – anything I can do to give it my flavour. It wouldn’t be a horror film, I don’t like them. It would either be action/adventure or a documentary covering stories around the world, maybe fantasies or sci-fi or it could be lifestyle.
Who is your favourite film director?
I really like George Clooney – I like some of his creations, and he was the producer behind Gravity which I really liked. There are many movies I get to watch and I think I’d like to create something similar. There are so many ideas out there that haven’t been expressed.
If you were to write a movie about yourself, who would play Stefanos Tsitsipas?
Bradley Cooper or Gregory Peck!
What are your projects at the moment?
My project is in my new dog! I am working on a movie, called How to Stay Human Using Phones in the 21st Century. There are around 15 things that will help you stay sane and stay human because social media is our main form of communication these days. It’s a 21st century thing – we feel more connected, yet we can also feel more alone. Without it, we don’t have a status and we are not recognised.
What is your favourite tennis tournament?
My favourite tournament is the Laver Cup. I love the vibes at the Laver Cup, we were all so connected, we came into the tournament as a union, trying to represent our continent and it just felt magical to be on the same team as Roger and Rafa. I got to play doubles with both of them and it was a great experience for me. It was a dream come true for sure. As a child, I would never have dreamed the Laver Cup would ever happen – a competition between Europe and the Rest of the World – I would never think that would be possible but it happened and I got to be part of it. I got invited which was such an honour. Playing for your country is one thing, but playing for Team Europe – if you just sit down and think about it – you are among the best European tennis players. You get to be chosen as one of the top tennis players to play for your continent. That makes you feel very emotional.
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