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"Dear Fans": Tsitsipas offers new approach to the pursuit of greatness
Dare we call Tsitsipas a “Tennisance Man” for the 21st century? Does his introspective studiousness offer a new model for how a professional tennis player can best savor his travels and concurrently pursue his dreams?
Published Feb 14, 2021
The champion model calls for monastic focus. Bjorn Borg, holed-up in an austere hotel room. Chris Evert, ordering room service night after night. Others we’ll politely exclude, who reveled in never reading a book, visiting a museum, seeing a play, listening to classical music, strolling into a café.
Then there is Stefanos Tsitsipas. “This is a seeker,” analyst Jon Wertheim said today on Tennis Channel Live as he discussed the Greek contender’s new Dear Fans vlog-umentary. Wertheim also noted how Tsitsipas enjoys watching the History Channel.
Dare we call Tsitsipas a “Tennisance Man” for the 21st century? Do his introspective, studious qualities offer a new model for how a professional tennis player can best savor his many travels and concurrently pursue his dreams?
No question, Tsitsipas goes about his tennis fiercely, his matches filled with passion. Though only 22, Tsitsipas has already played his share of rollercoasters, including several five-setters at the majors that have wrung him dry. This past week in Melbourne had one that went the distance, a second round match versus Thanasi Kokkinakis that saw Tsitsipas drop the first set, win the next two, lose the fourth—and at last, after four hours and 32 minutes, close it out, 6-4 in the fifth.
“Great match towards the very end, and I fought like a lion,” said Tsitsipas afterwards. “I fought like a real warrior out there, and it was an amazing ending with lots of emotion and great spirits.”
The intriguing dimension with Tsitsipas is that he’s likely spent time with lions, read about warriors, questioned his emotions, channeled spirits. Animals, literature, psychology, philosophy, fashion—these are just a few of his many interests.
An open secret about life as a professional tennis player is that there are many pockets of downtime. Tennis is not football, where the head coach creates a paramilitary environment, virtually every minute of the week leading up to game day carefully scheduled. As all tennis players show, this is a game for the independent-minded, for the free spirit unwilling to be plugged into a boss’s org chart.
And now along comes Tsitsipas. Perhaps his approach defines another way to treat pressure, less as a reality and more as a fleeting illusion. After all, amid a health crisis that has brought so much of the world to a standstill, the lexicon of sports is surely in for reform. Pressure? Wins and losses that carry massive consequence? It’s hard to take that kind of thinking too seriously. Better yet, Tsitsipas: tennis as a game—one that matters very much, but still, joyfully, simply a game, its yellow ball, circling around the bigger ball known as Earth.