© Peter Staples/ATP World Tour

#NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated four Top 10 opponents en route to his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final.

Tsitsipas: 'I'm Really Hungry For More'

#NextGenATP Greek climbs to a career-best World No. 15 Monday

One year ago this week, Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas was No. 168 in the ATP Rankings, and competing at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Portoroz, Slovenia. That was when #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov went on a magical run to the Montreal semi-finals, beating Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro along the way.

“It inspired me so much, I was dreaming of being in his place,” Tsitsipas said. “I remember I was watching from the television in Portoroz in the Challenger that I was playing that week, and I was watching his matches every single day. So it was so inspirational to see him beat those guys. I mean, to me, it seemed like completely out of any world what he was doing on the court.”

If this week has proven anything, it’s that dreams do come true.This year’s Shapovalov at the Rogers Cup was Tsitsipas. The #NextGenATP star said, ‘I didn't beat Rafa. He did beat Rafa’, but there was a difference between the two runs. The Greek went one step further than his left-handed counterpart, advancing to the final by defeating four Top 10 opponents — Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson — along the way.

“Now I understand that it is more simple and less complicated than it looks,” Tsitsipas said. “I just had to believe in myself and feel confident playing those guys… so I'm not surprised that I'm here in the finals. I mean, I did the job that I had to do.”

That effort will help Tsitsipas in a major way, propelling him all the way to World No. 15, which is incredible considering he did not earn his first tour-level match win until 10 months ago. Tsitsipas is not only second in the ATP Race To Milan, but he is also one of the hottest players on the ATP World Tour, period. Less than four months ago, he reached his maiden ATP World Tour final at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, also losing against Nadal there. Last week, he reached the semi-finals at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

But while Tsitsipas is thrilled with the way he is playing, the 20-year-old has no intention of slowing down. He doesn’t want to settle for cracking the Top 20 for the first time. The Athens native wants to continue his ascent, and he learned one major lesson against the best player in the world on Sunday.

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“How much I have to work. How much gap there is between him and me in our games, and how much more I need to, I don't want to be rude, but bust my [behind] more on the court. Work more hours and become stronger and a more solid baseliner, and withstand pressures, physical pressures on the court that to him it just seems like nothing special. That's the big difference between my game and his game.

“He never cracks. He will always grab you like a bulldog and… he will always make you suffer on the court. And it is amazing what he has built as a player. I mean, he was, like, you know, normal like all of us, and he managed to become this beast, this monster that he is today.”

It’s something to strive toward for a player who is just getting started. When Roger Federer turned 20, he was World No. 39. Zverev, who is now No. 3 just more than a year later, was 20th. So Tsitsipas is in pretty good company.

“I'm really hungry for more. I believe I can achieve much more this year… although I lost today, I feel like I can still beat good players,” Tsitsipas said. “I really want to make more points this year and get the best out of me.”