Stafanos Tsitsipas talks with Boardroom about what he does off the court to make sure he’s at his best on match day.
At long last, the final Grand Slam of the year has arrived. Some of the best athletes in tennis are in Queens for the 142nd edition of the US Open, taking place from Aug. 28 to Sept. 10. Reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz has been in terrific form since lifting his first Grand Slam trophy at Arthur Ashe Stadium last year, but the youngster has considerable competition. Entering as the No. 7 seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas is back for his seventh try at the sterling silver hardware.
Ahead of his opening match Monday against No. 336 Milos Raonic (Canada), Tsitsipas spoke to Boardroom about how he prepares for a Grand Slam, the best part of playing in New York, and his partnership with Wilson Sporting Goods.
VINCIANE NGOMSI: As you prepare for another Grand Slam, take us through your day-to-day process and how you work to get yourself in tournament shape.
STEFANOS TSITSIPAS: I think waking up early for me is most important. It helps set my intentions for the day and really puts me in a good mood. I like getting my workout and training finished early, so I can have the rest of the day to myself. So I just make sure I get into my routines early, go to the courts, and then by mid-day, I’m finished. Of course, there’s a lot of fitness involved that I do to maintain my body and make sure that I’m super ready for the US Open. My treatment is also very important. I’ve been doing a lot of physio to ensure that my body’s 100% for the tough practice sessions that take place every single day. And that’s pretty much it. I am very focused on my diet and I make sure I eat the best stuff and put the best stuff into my engine to run fast, be reactive, be quick, and of course lots of stretching for an athlete like me. Lots of stretching.
VN: The physical part of being fit is certainly important, but mental toughness is something athletes are focusing on more these days. How do you make sure you’re mentally prepared for whatever challenges may await you these next two weeks?
ST: Great question. I do work with a psychologist who helps me out on this part of training, let’s call it. It’s a very important one that a lot of people underestimate. I would say for me it’s important to be mentally strong and fit to perform at such high levels of intensity. Obviously, there’s a small separation between the greatest and the good ones, and really I want to take it to the next step in my professional career. In order to do that, I need to exercise my body but also my brain at the same time. And that helps me have a healthy, good balance in what I do day to day. I’m not seeking immediate results right now, but I’m more focused on the long road ahead of me with lots of difficult battles I will have to endure on the court.
VN: Take us through the mind of a tennis player while they’re on the court in front of thousands of people. How would you describe the energy of the US Open compared to other Grand Slams? Tennis is mostly rooted in tradition, so it must be so different when you’re playing on clay, hard court, or grass.
ST: Well, one thing I wouldn’t call tennis anymore is traditional. It’s definitely very modernized and very eccentric in its own way. And it passes a different message, a different feeling. And that is so great that we have four Grand Slams that differ so much from one another and that we don’t just get the same thing being thrown at us every tournament. But I would describe the US Open as this energetic, fiery loud slam that is all about celebrities coming to watch the matches. You get a taste of everything. I think there has been royalty in the US Open and there have been people from Hollywood here. You have politicians come watch and all kinds of things are going on. You are playing a match but can smell hot dogs being cooked a hundred meters away from you, too. It’s a chaotic party and sensory overload.
VN: Gear is another crucial part of your success. As a Wilson athlete, how does the constant improvement of their rackets help elevate your game?
ST: I didn’t understand the importance of gear until I tried and tested rackets, patterns, strings, and all kinds of things myself. I only then came to the realization of how something that really works for you can have a positive outcome in your performance — or in my case in my career, which is tennis. All of us have different playing styles and ways we approach the game. So in my case, my racket has served me really well in maximizing the potential in my all-around game, especially considering I like to strike the ball hard from the baseline and from time to time to finish it off with volleys. I consider that one of my biggest weapons. The Wilson Blade has been in my bag since I was 16 years old. We’ve had a very committed, long relationship with that racket and as it improves, it’s like Wilson’s philosophy. They’re always trying to reach new heights and try new technologies that will innovate and move the game forward. I’m very open-minded to these things and I’m always keen on trying new things and new innovations that come out and are looking to help make the game more exciting.
VN: What’s the best part of playing in New York City?
ST: I think the energy is truly unique. The people are very loud, very fanatic. Some of them do not watch as much tennis as, for example, in other venues or other slams. But they bring that energy from all the different sports that New York likes to watch and they throw it into tennis, which is unusual for us tennis players. But I personally like it. I like the variation, because there are different ethnicities in New York City, and it’s cool to see all these different ethnic groups come together to celebrate and watch tennis on such a high stage.
VN: What do you think is the main difference from when your first US Open in 2017 to now? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in that seven-year span?
ST: Well for sure to be more open-minded. I have built a deeper connection with the tournament, having played it more and more times. I haven’t performed as well on this particular one as opposed to some other Grand Slams. And I really want to, so I’m just taking it easy. I’m patiently working hard in silence and waiting for my chance. I really want this to work.
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