With Federer and Nadal away, could Tsitsipas make a star turn in NYC?

With Federer and Nadal away, could Tsitsipas make a star turn in NYC?

The 22-year-old took the court for the first time on Sunday, and showed no signs of stage fright against Kevin Anderson.

Tennis made a splash, color-wise, in its return this weekend at the Western & Southern Open. Bright hues and painterly splashes were the norm around Flushing Meadows. You might think that the same would have been true for Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is among the most flamboyant of the young heirs to the ATP throne.

Instead, Tsitsipas stood out in the old-fashioned plain white Adidas shirt that he sported for his opener again Kevin Anderson. The 22-year-old, who went by the nickname the Greek God during the UTS exhibition series this summer, let his racquet do the talking in his New York debut on Sunday.

It didn’t need to come up with any fancy phrases, or highlight-reel shots, to make it past Anderson. The South African was coming off a three-hour win over Kyle Edmund on Saturday, and it looked like his 34-year-old legs were still in recovery mode in the early going today. Tsitsipas broke Anderson at 1-1, 1-3, and 1-5 in the opening set, and won the second in only slightly less lopsided fashion for a 6-1, 6-3 victory.

Unforced errors aren’t always the most relevant stat in a result, but they were hard to ignore here: Anderson made 29 of them, Tsitsipas just 12. The few times that Anderson threatened to break, his set his own effort back with a wild forehand.

“It was great,” Tsitsipas said of his performance. “I served very aggressive, and maintained my intensity.”

Tsitsipas returned equally well. He seems to be trying to stay lower, and limit his motion as he receives serve, and he kept Anderson from hitting an ace for a set and a half. At 2-2 in the second, Anderson did make a push, going up 0-40 on Tsitsipas’s serve. But Tsitsipas pushed back, playing brilliant defense to save the first break point, and cracking a service winner to save another.

“My fighting spirit turned on,” Tsitsipas said.

With that pressure relieved, Tsitsipas got some help from a few Anderson double faults and closed out this second-round win. He may need his return to be even better this week, because he could face two of the tour’s other towering flamethrowers, John Isner and Reilly Opelka, in the coming rounds.

With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal out, there’s an opening on the men’s side for a star to make his first big turn. Tsitsipas’s game looked ready for the stage. Now he just needs a shirt to go with it.