By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – With Melbourne’s large Greek community certain to come out and support him in large numbers, the Australian Open is the closest Stefanos Tsitsipas will come to a home Grand Slam and the young gun is determined to put on a show for his fans.
Tsitsipas is rated by many as the most likely to break the three-year grip Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have held on the Grand Slam titles and the 21-year-old Greek said he wants to play his best tennis on the big stage.
“I think the Grand Slam tournaments are events where you try and bring the best out of you, when it comes to concentration, when it comes to playing with energy, good footwork, being aggressive and being consistent point by point,” he said.
“A good start is always important, trying to conserve energy, trying to avoid playing long matches. I’ve been working on this mentally and technically, strategically, to avoid having difficulties in the early rounds.”
Monday’s meeting with Italian Salvatore Caruso on Margaret Court Arena will be the first test of that work as Tsitsipas looks to match, or even better, his sensational run to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park last year.
There are greater expectations this year after he won the ATP Finals and he has betrayed some frustration, most notably at the ATP Cup earlier this month when he accidentally hit his father with a racket and got a ticking off from his mother.
“I was really embarrassed to see myself in such situation, I was just holding everything and it exploded at some point,” the world number six added.
“I’ve been really working on this. I think being balanced in my head and thinking in a straight line will help me. If you are just one day on, one day off with your emotions, they can cost you.”
Another area Tsitsipas is looking to improve is his reaction to setbacks, a lesson he said he learned after an early exit from the Montreal Masters in August.
“I was like, ‘Why should you be so stressed?’, there’s no point,” he said.
“Just start fresh, it’s a new tournament, don’t think of what happened in the past, and try to play your best, compete your best.
“I think if you think of it too much, it just ruins your game. So, keep it simple.”
After a less than perfect re-introduction to Melbourne, when a training session in the bushfire smoke left him struggling with breathing problems, Tsitsipas is once again looking forward to playing in front of his vocal fans in Melbourne.
“I have great memories from here last year,” he said.
“Semi-finals, living the dream, playing with so much adrenaline. I really enjoy the crowd, the people’s energy here.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)