Taken from The Art of Tennis II: An Exploration of Planet Tennis
That Stefanos Tsitsipas’ favourite surface is grass proves just how far he has come. His clay court exploits earlier in the season, and his now increasingly impressive results in the early stages of the latest hard-court season, have earmarked him as one for the future of men’s tennis. The future seems to be coming into view much sooner than anticipated and the Greeks have a genuine no-filler god on their hands, as does the wider world of tennis. Yesterday’s victory over recent Wimbledon champion and returned top tenner, Novak Djokovic, at the Rogers Cup, should see Tsitsipas climb to a career-high ranking next week yet again. His current ranking post of 27 marks a startling ascendency over recent months, turning 2018 into his undeniable breakthrough year. At only 19, he is one of the few players who looks like an authentic challenger to Alexander Zverev over the coming decade.
Andrey Rublev and Hyeon Chung, two of the most impressive young players of 2017 and of the first edition of the NextGen tournament last year, have been blighted with injury throughout this year – and have missed a substantial opportunity to kick on from some brilliant 2017/early 2018 scenes. Denis Shapovalov, also 19, has pressed on, and along with Tsitsipas, looks like the other rightful heir to the throne of men’s tennis. Others who can carve impressive results, but perhaps not quite as consistently, are Borna Ćorić, Daniil Medvedev, Taylor Fritz and Alex de Minaur.
My other favourite youngster is 20-year old Frances Tiafoe. He narrowly missed out against Grigor Dimitrov yesterday in a tight third set. Experience was, seemingly, the deciding factor. This week, only Tsitsipas is left standing, with his quarter-final berth seeing him once again face Alexander Zverev, who dispatched him in rather a straightforward manner last week in Washington (the German, Zverev, went on to defend his title there).
I wouldn’t be surprised if today’s match is more of a contest. The young Greek has already overcome Damir Džumhur, Dominic Thiem and Djokovic (two top ten players in the last two rounds) in the first three rounds of this year’s Rogers Cup, and will fear nobody. That he is improving with every tournament – even every match he plays – evokes the fluidity, grace and efficiency of Roger Federer, at times, more than any other young player. He has already pieced together the tour and its intricate workings, at such a tender age, and this makes him a remarkably gifted and appealing prospect. Undeniably, his potential is almost endless. He looks like the 2018 incarnation of Björn Borg, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and more than any other aspect, he knows he is good enough, now, to challenge and push the world’s best players. This week proves that, and backs up his previous results this season. When you start putting together a run like this, it is no fluke. Soon the world’s top 20 will include him and Denis Shapovalov. Then, there is no looking back, and surely, it’s just a matter of time until these two names join Zverev in the top ten and then the top five.
The men’s game hasn’t changed for a long time, but it is finally happening.
Don’t be surprised if Rafael Nadal and Federer, and maybe even Djokovic too, are soon edged out of the running for the big titles. These kids are as hungry as they are, and Tsitsipas is just what tennis has been needing – a breath of fresh air, a Greek god with just the image to launch a thousand advertising campaigns, and break a million hearts every time he loses. More than any of that, what beautiful tennis the young man plays. What absolutely beautiful tennis he plays. Make no mistake, this young player is here to stay.