Four defeats in four matches and an admiration that goes beyond the lines of the court. Stefanos Tsitsipas wants to be like ‘Carlitos’ Alcaraz at the French Open, his ogre and inspiration, to make the definitive leap that his talent demands. They meet in Tuesday’s ‘night session’ in the Roland Garros quarter-finals.
The Greek, fifth in the ATP at the age of 24, surprised at the French Open with a change of image. He had shaved off his usual stubble. He was asked about this in the press room after his first match, and the world No. 1 suddenly appeared in his answer.
“I’m going to explain it simply. I was with Carlitos the other day in training and I said ‘thank you’. I don’t know if he understood or not. I owe him a lot because it means some fresh air that he’s in the tournament,” Tsitsipas said to his surprised audience.
Despite knowing they matched up in a hypothetical quarter-final, the two players had trained together on the eve of the start of the tournament, in a session at the Suzanne Lenglen that ended up packed with fans.
“He really wants to win, he smiles all the time. He’s a really good player. He has so much charisma and positive energy that he distributes to everyone…. This has contributed to his evolution as a player. He seems to have a lot of fun,” he added.
The Greek then explained that since last year he is looking for a similar evolution in his tennis, focusing less on the games aspects and more on having a positive attitude.
“I admire him for that. I have the ability to be such a person, I really believe it and that’s why I am happier, also when I play, thanks to him,” he ended his surprising dissertation.
A game that suits me
As the standard-bearer of the tennis that will remain after the ‘Big three’, the golden era of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Alcaraz attracts attention in the tennis world for his lightness and simplicity.
In a sport where the psychological pressure can eat away at players, alone on the court for hours in front of a crowd, the Spaniard enjoys the big stages.
“I’ve never seen a player at this level who enjoys as much as you do!” the Swedish legend Mats Wilander told him after his first match, on the Suzanne Lenglen ground.
“I win all the time because I smile. I’ve always said that smiling, for me, is the key to everything,” he noted with his usual naturalness.
On court, the 20-year-old Spanish phenom has the Greek’s morale in tatters. That’s four wins in four matches – US Open 2021, Miami 2022, Barcelona 2022 and Barcelona 2023 – with the feeling that the gap between the two continues to grow.
Alcaraz has one Grand Slam, the last US Open, while Tsitsipas has not opened his locker, after being a finalist at Roland Garros 2021 – losing two sets to Djokovic – and at the last Australian Open, where he also lost to the Serbian legend.
After defeating Lorenzo Musetti (18th) on Sunday, Alcaraz spoke about the duel against the Greek. “It will be a great match because we have played great duels. I have to stay focused, he is a tough opponent, but he has a game that suits me, indeed,” he replied to a journalist.