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Greece Hero Sakellaridis On A Debut Win, Advice From Tsitsipas & Racquet Repairs

18-year-old Greek stunned Bergs on his ATP Tour debut in Perth
January 03, 2023
Stefanos Sakellaridis' win against Zizou Bergs at the United Cup on Tuesday sparked jubilant celebrations from Team Greece.
Will Russell/Getty Images
Stefanos Sakellaridis' win against Zizou Bergs at the United Cup on Tuesday sparked jubilant celebrations from Team Greece. By Andy West
When the World No. 803 Stefanos Sakellaridis arrived in Perth as part of Team Greece for the inaugural United Cup, the 18-year-old needed some time to adjust to his surroundings.

“It was the first time in my life this week seeing a Top 100 player in front of me, actually,” Sakellaridis, who competes regularly on the ITF Men's World Tennis Tour, told in Perth. “When everyone was coming by, like [David] Goffin, [Grigor] Dimitrov, I was like, ‘Oh, wow’.”

On Tuesday, an injury to his teammate Michail Pervolarakis meant Sakellaridis was called upon to make his tour-level debut against Team Belgium’s Zizou Bergs. Taking on the World No. 129 in front of the biggest crowd of his career could have overwhelmed a player who had never played a match on the ATP Challenger Tour, but Sakellaridis battled to a stunning 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 win.

The result triggered huge outbursts of emotion from his teammates, including Top 10 stars Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari as well as his sister Sapfo Sakellaridi. Sakellaridis acknowledged that the positive atmosphere in the Team Greece camp this week played a key role in believing he could step up his level when required.

“You can see that the team chemistry is unbelievable, so it’s a huge boost for every one of us to play much better,” said Sakellaridis. “When you feel good, you play good.”

Even prior to his standout win, Sakellaridis felt supported by his teammates in Perth, where Team Greece will compete in the City Finals on Wednesday after winning Group A. The ATP World No. 4 Tsitsipas is an obvious role model for the teen as he seeks to improve his game.

“To be able to live with [Tsitsipas] throughout the day, you can see how much work he puts in and my respect towards the top players has grown immensely,” said Sakellaridis. “Stefanos has given me lots of advice, he has helped me a lot. Also all the team, they seem like they really want to help me, all of them gave me advice.

“Obviously from watching here, what they do and how they do it on the court and outside the court, I can also see some things for myself. All in all it is an amazing experience to come here.”

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One part of that experience has been playing with a fully maintained racquet for the first time in months. In his on-court interview, Sakellaridis paid tribute to a member of the tournament stringing team, who had solved an ongoing issue with the 18-year-old’s stock of equipment.

“I was competing for the last two or three months, [but] I was using only one racquet,” explained Sakellaridis later. “I had grip problems with all my racquets, so I didn’t want to use any others. I was only using the same racquet because it was the only one that felt like the grip was how I like it.

“That racquet, after I played with it a bit, the butt cap [at the bottom of the handle] started moving, so in the past month I was playing with one racquet, and the grip was moving. Then I came here, and he fixed all my racquets, so now I can freely play.”

As well as precious experience on the big stage, Tuesday’s win earned Sakellaridis 20 Pepperstone ATP Ranking points and $25,900 in prize money. It is a potentially career-changing moment for the 18-year-old.

“It’s my ATP debut, and it came with a win, and prize money that I couldn’t imagine,” said Sakellaridis. “[After the United Cup] I’m going to compete in Monastir for the next few weeks. There is a 15K ITF tournament there, but we’ll see how it goes. It was a big win and a big step up in the rankings.”

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