LONDON (AP) — Stefanos Tsitsipas is setting a new standard for Greek tennis. And he’s hoping people back home will soon start taking notice.
Tsitsipas became the first Greek man in the 50-year professional era to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament after beating Thomas Fabbiano of Italy at Wimbledon on Friday.
The 19-year-old Tsitsipas won 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in 91 minutes to further enhance his status as one of the top young talents in the game.
He is the first Greek man in the round of 16 at the All England Club since Nicky Kalogeropoulos in 1964.
“It’s an amazing feeling, and I feel very proud I represent Greece and that all of my hard work has paid off,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s just such nice feelings to be the first from your country to do so.”
Greece has a proud sporting tradition dating back to the founding of the Olympic Games. But tennis has never quite caught on, remaining in the shadow of more popular sports like soccer and basketball.
“I just think it’s not in the culture yet, and people don’t take tennis that seriously like other sports,” Tsitsipas said.
If anyone can change that, it’s Tsitsipas, who has quickly become a fan favorite at Wimbledon with a playing style that includes a penchant for the spectacular.
He has become known for diving at full stretch to reach shots on the grass courts, pulling off one such winner in his second-round win over Jared Donaldson.
Even Roger Federer is a fan, having practised with the Greek youngster at Wimbledon last year.
“I feel like he’s taken a major step forward since his match here last year. … he seems much more comfortable coming to the net, playing from the back, knowing when to use power, when to use finesse,” Federer said. “I think that’s always key for a one-handed backhand player.”
Tsitsipas next faces ninth-seeded John Isner of the U.S., who also reached Wimbledon’s fourth round for the first time by beating 98th-ranked Radu Albot of Moldova 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
“(Tsitsipas) is certainly one of the best young players we have in the game today,” Isner said. “He has a lot of talent and a lot of ability. But I have experience on my side.”
The Greek teenager owes some of his talent to his mother Julia, who was a top Soviet player in the 1980s.
Those genes have rubbed off on his siblings, too. Younger brothers Petros and Pavlos are promising juniors, meaning Greece may not have to wait 50 more years for another deep run in a Grand Slam.
“I think with good results (and) big names coming from Greece that can prove there are good tennis players, I think they can inspire young kids,” he said. “Young kids can go out more and choose other sports instead of football or basketball.
“The media can have a big impact on that. And then as a sportsperson, you can just expose yourself and be the first person that can make tennis a big thing in Greece.”
By MATTIAS KAREN, Associated Press