How A Vacation With Giannis Antetokounmpo Inspired Tsitsipas
Greek is seeded second at the Rolex Paris Masters
Stefanos Tsitsipas has achieved Greek history during his opening years on the ATP Tour and is one of the most recognisable athletes from his country.
But a recent vacation with one of the other leading sports stars in his country — two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo — has inspired the Greek ahead of his final events of the year on the ATP Tour.
Tsitsipas and Antetokounmpo spent time together in Athens last month, shortly after the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion’s semi-final run at Roland Garros. The 22-year-old used the time not only to recover from a leg injury, but also to seek advice from Antetokounmpo about his experiences competing in elite sport.
“I had a really good time with Giannis, and once again, I understood how humble and what a nice guy he is,” said Tsitsipas. “I think there was plenty for me to learn from him. The fact that we are both playing different sports at such a high level [means] we have a lot of things that we [can] relate [to].
“I was very happy to talk with him and discuss the differences of our sports, work ethics and just basically our lives. I had a very good time with him. I met his wife, I met his little son that was born a few months ago. Overall, it was a great experience.”
The 2020 ATP Tour season has proven to be a mental and physical challenge for players. The Tour suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic halted Tsitsipas’ great run of form, which included back-to-back final appearances in Marseille (d. Auger-Aliassime) and Dubai (l. to Djokovic).
But by taking time away from the sport, like he did recently with Milwaukee Bucks star Antetokounmpo, Tsitsipas has gained a greater understanding of how he can continue to elevate his game during this difficult period.
”I'm still trying to improve in all of departments. I wouldn't say necessarily I have become better [this year] and that was also something I discussed with Giannis once I was in Greece having my vacation: how sometimes there comes a moment where you feel like you're reaching your limits, but then there are certain things where you do things wiser and you don't overtrain.
”Little things like this that [don’t] necessarily make you elevate your game, because, for sure, there is a maximum at some point. You [can’t] be ‘God mode’. It's impossible for a human being to do that.”
One area where Tsitsipas believes he has clearly improved in 2020 is in his mental approach to the sport. The second seed in Paris has kept his composure in tough moments and earned his first comeback from two sets down against Jaume Munar at Roland Garros in September.
”I think this year my attitude has improved a lot,” said Tsitsipas. “My tranquility and how calm I am on the court has given me a lot of match [wins] and also a lot of confidence [to keep] believing in myself when tough situations show up in a match.”
Tsitsipas is excited to have another opportunity to play on the ATP Tour in Paris. The Athens native is making his third straight appearance at the ATP Masters 1000 event and will open his campaign against Antwerp champion Ugo Humbert or Casper Ruud.
”I feel good. I don't feel exhausted, because I have not played that many tournaments this year, so I don't really have a reason to be exhausted,” said Tsitsipas. “The part that makes it more tiring than usual is the virus itself and all the things that keep showing up and the changes that are happening. I would say that is the biggest challenge that we are facing right now.
”But tournaments, I would love to play every single week, honestly. If I could play every single week, I would sign up in a tournament every single week and play. But, for sure, I'm trying to keep my body at a good balance, not overdo it and put emphasis and attention on the important tournaments.”