Stefanos Tsitsipas, the world No. 1 junior, didn’t wait long to make Greek tennis history. His 2016 Wimbledon juniors boys’ doubles victory – with Estonian partner Kenneth Raisma – was the first Grand Slam title for Greece at any level of tennis.
“It was the best day of my life,” beamed the lanky 6-foot-4 prodigy.
The big-serving 18-year-old savored the moment, just as he did when he first claimed the junior No. 1 ranking in May. He achieved the feat after lifting the trophy at the 57° Trofeo Bonfiglio, a Grade A junior event in Milan, Italy.
But the precocious neophyte has his sights set on bigger prizes in the future. “I am very happy, but there is more tennis coming up and more goals to achieve.”
His goal is to put tennis on the map in Greece.
“I play for myself, and for my country,” he explained. “I want to see more kids playing tennis like I did and make the sport grow.”
Currently ranked No. 335 in the ATP World Tour rankings, Tsitsipas is aiming to break into the Top 200 in the coming year and compete in the Australian Open qualifying tournament. With its large and boisterous Greek population, Australia would be the perfect start to the junior’s Grand Slam career at the pro level.
Tsitsipas, born and raised in Athens, has been coached by his father, Apostolos, since he was young. He grew up in a sporting family – his mother, Julija Apostoli, was a former pro tennis player, and his grandfather, Sergei Salnikov, was a Russian soccer player and coach who won Olympic gold in 1956.
He got his first taste of tennis at the age of 3, hitting a few balls for fun at the resort where his parents worked. As he got older, he slowly got more into the sport and developed the all-around game that has propelled him to the top of the junior world.
His all-court game is a joy to watch, as he combines big serving and heavy ground strokes with a deft touch and intimidating presence at net.
“I consider myself to have no weakness,” he said, “but I usually hit my forehand more because it feels right.”
Tsitsipas is confident this style will serve him well as he takes the next steps in his young career, working his way up the pro rankings just as he did in the juniors.
He will see first-hand what it takes to get to the top at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. The rising star will be a hitting partner to the world’s best at the year-end event in November, and he is excited to soak up all he can from the experience.
When Tsitsipas was just 6, he witnessed one of the great moments in Greek sports history. The Greek national soccer team defied all odds to win the 2004 European Championship. The ensuing party showed the young Athenian just how much sport meant to his country.
“They get crazy sometimes,” he laughed.
Tsitsipas hopes to give them plenty more reasons to get crazy as his tennis career blossoms.