It was a moment that felt significant for the future of tennis, with Stefanos Tsitsipas’s thrilling triumph at last November ATP Finals marking a breakthrough moment for one of the rising stars of the game.
As the London crowd rose to acclaim a new champion and chanted ‘Hellas Tsitsipas’ in remarkable unison, his agent and adviser Patricio Apey looked on with pride at his latest starlet began to realise his potential on one of the biggest stages in the game.
In an exclusive interview with Tennis365, the mentor who also oversaw the formative stages of Andy Murray’s career and has spent a life working in the sport he loves told us about his hopes for Tsitsipas.
How significant could Stefanos Tsitsipas’s win at the ATP Finals last November be for the rest of his career?
Patricio Apey: “There is never smoke without fire so winning a title like the ATP Finals at 21 years old certainly bodes well for his future. In an era where 30+ is the normal age for players in the top 10, we must keep the perspective of these young players that start making noise at the bigger events.”
Now that he has won a major event, will that change his mindset heading into the big tournaments in 2020?
Patricio Apey: “His mindset won’t change necessarily but the expectations of the media and others will change because he has made a big splash at a big event. Hopefully this serves as a building block rather than unrealistic expectations.”
Is he ready to deal with the increased hype and profile that will come his way?
Patricio Apey: “So far he has dealt with it very well. He has a very strong mindset and believes in his destiny.”
Is Stefanos a good guy to work with?
Patricio Apey: “Stefanos is an excellent guy to work with. He is very thoughtful and appreciates the advice he receives from all the grey-haired people around him. He takes everything on board and has a very unique outlook on things. For example, after the ATP Finals you can pretty much expect many players doing the same selfie on Instagram in the Maldives, usually in an infinity pool. Whereas Stefanos preferred to travel to Iceland and Oman – and enjoyed every minute of his adventures.
“He has a very occupied mind with a thirst for exploring and creating. His vlogs speak for themselves in this regard and whilst it can be normal in young adults to explore the world, for a professional athlete of 21 years old, this is a very refreshing outlook that I know the public appreciates.”
Describe your emotions as you see one of your players make a breakthrough as we saw with Stefanos at the 02 Arena.
Patricio Apey: “It is actually the best part of the job to see someone you first encountered at age 15 to make a breakthrough at a big level, playing against the best players in the world. It is a great sense of achievement and confirmation of what you believed in years before. It is great to see how the families enjoy the breakthrough and to be a part of it is a real buzz.”
The crowd chanting Stefanos’ name felt like a big moment for the sport as a whole. Did it feel like the next generation were making a mark at the public at last?
Patricio Apey: “In 30 years of watching professional tennis, I have never heard a crowd pick up a player at a key point of the match like in that match. The chanting of “Hellas Tsitsipas” echoed in all of our heads for hours and hours after that match. There was something magical about that moment that I am sure if Stefanos goes on to have a great career, will have had an important impact on his journey. It was as if the UK public identified their ‘Next Gen’ player and if some of those fans also cheer for him at Wimbledon in that way, we could be in for a very exciting next decade. They certainly firmly put themselves in the heart of Stefanos.”
Stay tuned to Tennis365.com for the second part of our interview with Patricio Apey where he talks about the young guns’ hopes of making the Grand Slam breakthrough and Andy Murray’s latest comeback attempt.
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