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How Stefanos Tsitsipas Became Tennis’s Mr. Personality

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Four days before he began his glorious, drama-filled run to the finals at Roland Garros, Stefanos Tsi­tsipas took the court at a suburban Paris country club and started circling his arms, reaching so far that he looked less like a 22-year-old tennis star and more like a Ferris wheel that had just been turned on and was gently picking up speed. Today was shoe-test day. Tsitsipas was wearing a new pair of black sneakers from Adidas, his sponsor; black shorts; and a white T-shirt that read terre battue (“clay court,” more or less, and a French Open slogan). His shoulder-length, sun-streaked curls were getting in his face, so he called for a headband. While he waited, he took out a pouch and ate some kind of goo. Soon Tsitsipas’s coach—his father, Apostolos—had set up a quartet of cones, and Tsitsipas was hitting down-the-line forehand after down-the-line forehand, an exercise designed to improve his margins, cratering the red dirt so that it looked like the balls were landing on the moon. “He always wants to improve, no matter what he’s doing,” Nick Tzekos, Tsitsipas’s agent, said, looking on. “I was with him yesterday, and he was like, ‘I’ve created my own font!’ ”

 

 

Yes, that’s right: his own font. In addition to being the third-ranked tennis player in the world, the youngest person in the ATP Top Ten, and the subject of countless dubious nicknames (the Greek God, Greece Lightning), Tsitsipas has, apparently, been finding time to get into graphic design.

Unusually for a professional athlete of his caliber, he cultivates extracurricular talents and sundry passions, remaining open to the world from the closed circuit of his sport. “I think growth starts from outside the tennis court, and then it goes into my tennis,” he says.

Born in Athens in 1998, Tsitsipas grew up in the seaside suburb of Vouliagmeni. He picked up tennis as a three-year-old at the local club, where both his father and his mother, Julia, a Soviet-born former professional player, worked as instructors. Stefanos is the eldest of four Tsitsipas children: His brother and doubles partner, Petros, recently joined the ATP tour, while their younger siblings, Pavlos and Elisavet, are on the junior circuit.

From childhood, Stefanos was different: quiet, comfortable in solitude, as introverted as he is personable now. “At some point, the teachers were worried, and they even asked me if maybe we should do some kind of special test,” Apostolos recalls, adding, “He’s a dreamer.”

Today Tsitsipas’s quirky disposition is one of his biggest assets, in addition to the blazing forehand, a killer serve, and unusual versatility on all of the sport’s surfaces. Apostolos says, “His uniqueness helps him to handle all the thousands of pieces of information that are coming in while he’s playing matches.”

The day before his practice session, Tsi­tsipas was sitting in a ballroom at the same country club, chatting animatedly on pretty much any subject that happened to come up.

(In addition to English, he speaks Greek and Russian fluently, and knows a decent amount of French, Portuguese, and Spanish.) He had thoughts on taking a nutrition class on the online learning platform Coursera, for example.

And on Matt D’Avella’s documentary about minimalism (“I feel like decluttering is good”). Not to mention essential oils (“I love lavender and always have it in my apartment”) and detoxing from social media (where he once posted competitor and friend Nick Kyrgios’s phone number as a birthday prank).

Feed Tsitsipas a question, put whatever spin on it you want, and he fires back with a straight winner or a surprising little conversational drop shot. “There’s a salad that I find really underrated, and that’s the Cretan salad,” Tsitsipas says, asked about a tweet in which he called for the abolition of the Caesar. “I would love this salad to be more in the spotlight.”

Tsitsipas’s charm is on full display on YouTube, where he frequently shares travel vlogs with an audience of nearly 180,000 subscribers. (He does most of his own production.) Traveling, Tsitsipas has said, “solves a lot of problems, in my opinion.”

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What kinds of problems? “Well, just feeling anxious and feeling like my life leads somewhere,” he says. “Sometimes I feel like I play tennis and I offer so much to many different people that love the sport. But outside the court, I want to be able to create.” The most exciting thing that ever happened to him while traveling was meeting the World’s Strongest Man, in Iceland.

The biggest disaster happened in Oman, when the four-wheel drive he was riding in through the desert almost ran out of gas. “The sun was setting, and, you know, we were thinking we were going to have to spend the night there,” Tsitsipas recalls. As for the wildest night, that went down recently, in Dubai: “I never drink,” Tsitsipas begins, grinning.

“But during my preseason, things kind of went out of control.” There was Peruvian food, along with some Moscow Mules and Cosmopolitans (“not a very manly drink, but I enjoy it”). “That was probably the first time I experienced being drunk,” Tsitsipas says before adding, “I have a saying that I really believe, and that doesn’t translate only into my tennis, which is to go after every single day.”

One of Tsitsipas’s goals for 2021 was to win a Masters 1000 tournament, which he did in April in Monte Carlo (where he now lives), becoming the first Greek ever to do so. Then he triumphed again in May, winning easily at Lyon. Prior to his run at the French, Tsitsipas had made a habit of coming up short in Grand Slams: a late-round exit here, a semifinal there.

But his focused performance in Paris, culminating in a thrilling five-set final in which he lost, just barely, to Novak Djokovic, put an end to the tutting of sideline second-guessers, while winning Tsitsipas a legion of new supporters.

(His first-round exit at Wimbledon in June was, alas, a disappointment for the growing fan club.) “My goal for this year is to finish the season with a lot of wins,” he told me before Roland Garros. “I don’t know whether that’s 50, 60, or 70. I don’t care how many, but I want to be at the top of the Most Wins leader of the year.” When we spoke, he was at 33, having earned more than $1.5 million in prize money.

Last year, at a post-match press conference, Tsitsipas admitted that he “sometimes feels like my parents are too involved in my life.” Then, at his next press conference, his mom showed up and playfully lobbed a question from the back row (“Hi, Stef; now I’m following you to the press conference to make sure I’m aware how you feel”). As Tsitsipas’s game evolves, he is also evolving into his own person, trying on hobbies and habits to find out what suits.

“I’m a grown-up now,” he says of his emerging independence. “I’m not a boy anymore. When I turned 21, I felt like, you know, things have changed.” With some help from his girlfriend, Theodora Petalas, an NYU graduate with a degree in project management, he even has some new outfits. “My wardrobe was quite weak, and I didn’t have a game there,” he says.

“I wanted to start dressing up a bit, so we tried to create an identity.” The look: “earthy colors,” nothing too flashy; refined but youthful. “I started investing more in fashion, and I’ve seen that transition kind of benefit me a lot and make me feel better about myself,” Tsitsipas says.

Onward, then, to wherever his curiosity takes him. “Things seem to be working my way,” he says. “If I keep putting in the same amount of work and if I stay persistent, I feel it can lead to a really nice place I haven’t been before.”

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HELL OF A FIGHT – Kell Brook claims Floyd Mayweather wants to fight winner of his clash with Amir Khan as Brit talks down retirement

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Brook and Khan are finally set to fight on February 19 in a bitter clash several years in the making.

Amir Khan and Kell Brook ahead of their February 19 fight
Kell Brook claimed Floyd Mayweather wants to face the winner of his fight with Amir Khan

Defeat for either of the 35-year-old pair could leave them starring retirement in the face.
But Brook talked down leaving the sport, citing Mayweather, 44, and rising British star Conor Benn, 25, as future opponents if he beats Khan.

He told iFL TV: “I think a lot of people want me to say I’m going to retire and what’s happening after.

“Conor Benn’s been mentioned, Mayweather’s been saying that he wants the winner, Danny Garcia’s been saying that he wants the winner, Keith Thurman’s getting active again.

“My mojo is back sat here right now speaking with you. I still feel young, I still feel fresh. I fell good. But obviously this fight is on my mind.

“A fighter, many fighters with experience in this game overlook fighters and to look for next fights after what’s in front of them.

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“I’m just focused on Khan for this fight. Am I going to retire? Let’s see how I feel.”

But he has returned twice since, both in exhibitions, starting with a one round demolition job over featherweight kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa, 23.

More recently, in June the American legend was taken the distance over eight rounds by YouTuber Logan Paul, 26, who weighed TWO STONE more.

But Mayweather – now in talks with 20-year-old YouTuber ‘Money Kicks’ – has previously ruled out ever coming back to traditional boxing.

Meaning Brook is unlikely to convince Mayweather into a fight, but he sent out a fierce warning to rival Khan.

He said: : “I don’t know if I hate him – that’s a strong word – but I’m close to the hate side.

“I really dislike the man and I really can’t wait to punch his face in.

“I can’t wait to get my knuckles to the nearest point of the gloves and drill it straight into his face.”

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Unimpressed Controversial Conclusion: Red Bull ‘played rough’ to help Max Verstappen win F1 title, Damon Hill claims

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Former F1 world champion Damon Hill has claimed Red Bull and team boss Christian Horner were “playing rough” as they looked to put the pressure on race director Michael Masi during the closing stages of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Horner pleaded Masi to give championship contenders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton “one more lap” following the safety car, with Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff later criticising the “unacceptable” way in which the race unfolded.

Five cars were allowed to overtake the safety car, putting Verstappen directly behind Hamilton on a fresh set of soft tyres, and Hill said Red Bull were smart in how they argued for the drivers to be allowed to race for the line.

“I think these are the new rules,” Hill told Sky Sports. “I think it’s a new style of race directing, I think that Mercedes have struggled with the decisions that have been made.

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“Red Bull played rough, but they’ve persuaded the race director that cars should be allowed to race, and it should be a robust kind of formula, and they’ve prevailed.”

Hamilton had closed the gap by winning three of the four final races of the season but the 1996 champion said Verstappen had been the better driver over the course of the season.

“You can’t have them both win, unfortunately, I think Max has fought valiantly. I think the right man won – if there can be such a thing,” Hill said.

“I feel for Lewis, he’s fought with everything he’s had, and with Mercedes as well. But they’re up against a very formidable Red Bull team and driver.”

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“Everyone wants him to make controversial comments; they don’t understand”– Former driver weighs in on Lewis Hamilton’s silence after ……..

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Lewis Hamilton usually keeps an active social media presence, engaging with fans and promoting social causes. However, after the dramatic conclusion of his title fight with Max Verstappen, the former world champion is nowhere to be seen.

The decision to restart the race has been controversial. Yet, Lewis hasn’t expressed his views on the same. Watson believes it’s an understandable response while the FIA carries out its investigation.

Hamilton is between a rock and a hard place between his sportsmanship and his own emotions. “I think he clearly felt that the manner in which the outcome of the race was determined was very unsatisfactory”, Watson has to say.

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Further adding, “I would agree with him on that. I think that he is taking his time, not making any announcements, public statements, whatever, and leaving the negotiation or the discussion that may or may not be taking place to his team.”

Watson also believes that this is a team issue, and Mercedes should express any disputes. – “If anybody is going to do anything about it, it’s going to have to be his team. Because he is only a part of that team,” he commented.

With Hamilton’s return to the sport up in the air, many eagerly await a response.

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