Sensational Tsitsipas Makes Greek History In Stockholm, Claims Maiden Title
#NextGenATP 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas made history on Sunday, becoming the first Greek to capture an ATP World Tour title, defeating qualifier Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4 to win the Intrum Stockholm Open.
"Of course I feel happy because I'm the first Greek [to win a title]. Hopefully many Greek players can achieve something like this. I would be super-happy to see them achieve something like this in the future, maybe even in the near future," Tsitsipas said. "Representing my country at such high-level tournaments, being the first Greek to crack the Top 100 is very, very special for me."
This is a moment Tsitsipas has long dreamed of. It doesn't hurt that some of the best players in the history of the sport have triumphed in Stockholm, including the likes of Roger Federer, Boris Becker and Mats Wilander.
"This trophy, it is amazing... When I first came to this tournament, I saw all those names: Federer, [Juan Martin] Del Potro, and I was like, 'Wow, wouldn't it be cool to have my name there one day'?" Tsitsipas said. "It happened this week. I was very focused, determined to win the tournament... I played great tennis and I deserve to have that spot."
It has been a season of firsts for Tsitsipas: He reached his first tour-level final in Barcelona, his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 championship match in Toronto, and cracked the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings for the first time on 13 August. But perhaps in Stockholm, he made his biggest breakthrough yet by lifting his maiden ATP World Tour trophy.
Nicholas Kalogeropolous was the first Greek to make a tour-level final, doing so in Des Moines 35 years ago. But when Gulbis missed a forehand in the net after one hour and 21 minutes, Tsitsipas tossed his racquet in the air and put both hands on his head knowing he was the first player from his country to triumph at tour-level.
"My strategy was to focus on every point twice more than I'm used to," Tsitsipas said of withstanding the pressure of finishing off his victory. "When I make these thoughts, good things happen. I managed to stay focused in the last game when I broke him at love, great return game from my side. Very focused in every single point, took advantage of his second serves and managed to close it. The feelings after that were just unreal."
It certainly wasn’t the first time Tsitsipas showed his potential, as he arrived in Sweden one spot off his career-best of No. 15 in the ATP Rankings (the youngest player in the Top 20). At the Rogers Cup in August, Tsitsipas became the youngest player to defeat four opponents inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings at a single event.
In the Stockholm final, Tsitsipas dominated on serve, winning 80 per cent of his service points and saving the only break point he faced. The No. 3 seed dropped the second set of his opening-round match against John Millman, but then won seven consecutive sets to come out victorious, adding 250 ATP Ranking points to his total as well as earning €109,310.
Tsitsipas is gaining plenty of momentum as the season nears its exciting climax. The Greek, who was an alternate in Milan last year, has already booked his spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals, to take place at the Fiera Milano from 6-10 November.
Gulbis, the World No. 145, entered the week with just four tour-level wins on the season. But the Latvian won four main draw matches in Stockholm to make his first final since 2014 Nice. Gulbis was trying to become the eighth singles champion in 2018 ranked outside of the Top 100. Qualifiers are now 8-3 in ATP World Tour finals this year.
While it was disappointing for Gulbis to not win his seventh tour-level title, the former World No. 10 gave full credit to Tsitsipas. He also leaves the tournament with 150 points and €57,570.
"He played a really good match. He had a great week," Gulbis said on court after the match. "Congratulations on your first title. I know it's a big deal to win your first ATP [World Tour] title, so enjoy it. I wish that it's not the last one."
Did You Know?
Tsitsipas is the 12th first-time titlist on the ATP World Tour this year. Later in the day, in Antwerp, British No. 1 Kyle Edmund became the 13th.