© Ben Solomon

Stefanos Tsitsipas will meet Kevin Anderson or Kyle Edmund in the Western & Southern Open second round.

No Crowds = Different Approach For Tsitsipas

Greek shares thoughts on playing without crowd support

With no crowds at this year’s Western & Southern Open, Stefanos Tsitsipas is approaching the sport with a different mindset on his return to the ATP Tour.

The ATP Masters 1000 event has moved to New York ahead of the US Open, with players following COVID-19 safety regulations. The controlled environment has kept players away from meeting fans and exploring the city, but Tsitsipas is taking the positives from the situation. With less distractions, he is now able to focus on his game and appreciate the sport even more.

“[The controlled environment] gives me, in a way, a different approach towards my tennis. It gives me an opportunity to focus more on my tennis and less on what is happening outside of it, which is great,” said Tsitsipas. “[This situation] gives me an opportunity to practise a lot, discover myself more being out on the court, love my sport even more, appreciate my sport more.”

Before the suspension of the ATP Tour, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion had reached peak form. In his two most recent events, Tsitsipas claimed his second straight Open 13 Provence title and reached the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final (l. to Djokovic). Returning to the site of an ATP Tour event for the first time since February has brought joy to Tsitsipas.

”It's a great opportunity to be able to perform and play at such a high level again. Personally speaking, I'm very happy I get to be back on the court,” said Tsitsipas. “I was very happy when I first came here and saw my fellow players. I greeted all of them, had a smile on my face seeing them, being surrounded by them. It's a great environment. Honestly, I'm just happy competing again, just happy to be able to be back to my normal happiness.”

This will be the first time that Tsitsipas has competed without spectators in a decade. The 22-year-old believes the lack of crowd support will prove most difficult for the top-ranked players in the FedEx ATP Rankings, who typically receive the greatest levels of support from fans.

”I haven't really gone out there and played without spectators,” said Tsitsipas. “I think last time was when I was 12, 11 years old… I think it's going to be challenging for most players, especially for the top players, which are used to having a big fan base, being surrounding by fans cheering their name, having people that love them when they play.

”I think it's going to create a more equal space for any player. It is going to be challenging. I think it benefits a bit the lower-ranked players.”

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When plans for the Western & Southern Open and the US Open were revealed, Tsitsipas was unsure if he would feel comfortable travelling to the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. But after speaking to fellow players and listening to expert health advice from the tournaments, the Greek made the decision to travel to New York and return to action.

“I was worried about the virus at first. Despite all of the regulations that US Open set from early on, I still felt it could be unsecure to travel to the U.S,” said Tsitsipas. “So far it has been proven wrong of what I initially thought… After I spoke to most of the ATP players, after that conversation and everything, I found it secure and safe to travel to the U.S. and that's why I did so. Plus, I miss competing a lot. I felt like if they think it's safe for us to play, I should just go and try it out. They know better than I do.”

With no form guide to reference, fans will struggle to predict the outcomes of matches over the next few weeks. Tsitsipas, who will open his campaign against Kyle Edmund or Kevin Anderson, believes the unique circumstances in New York will lead to a number of shock results.

”This year is very different. What I find very interesting is, I want to see who is going to manage that better than anyone else… I think we're going to see quite a few surprises this year.”

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