Stefanos Tsitsipas’ game is always resplendent on clay courts, where the world No. 5 has forged some of the biggest achievements of his career. The slowest surface on tour reveals the game of a special player who could well make the Mutua Madrid Open a turning point in his season.
The altitude of Madrid adds bite to a player who hits the ball aggressively and can end a point from anywhere on the playing surface. The carpet-like courts of Madrid generate true bounces, making for bigger targets when a player goes for a winner, and the atmosphere of the Mediterranean city is reminiscent of the Greek’s home.
“Similarity in culture, similarity in a lot of things like food. Spain’s a very welcoming place and a very good destination for tennis. I’ve always felt good playing here”, acknowledged last year’s winner in Mallorca, who reached the final in Madrid in 2019 and has played three deciders in Barcelona. “Greece hasn’t had the privilege of hosting any tennis tournaments yet. So Spain is the closest to Greece for me. That’s probably why I’ve played well here”.
In that context, Stefanos arrives in the Spanish capital having rediscovered his game, returning to the kind of form that took him to his second Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January. With the Barcelona final still fresh in his mind, Tsitsipas is confidence personified when he sets foot in the Manolo Santana Stadium.
”It’s getting good. I’ve had a lot of matches now on clay. I consider myself a candidate for this tournament in terms of having good results. The run I had in Barcelona brought me joy because after the Australian Open I didn’t go deep in tournaments. Now I’ve had a first glimpse of what it is to be strong again. Things are looking pretty bright”.
Of course, competing in Madrid means intruding in Carlos Alcaraz territory. The tournament’s defending champion, who boasts a 4-0 ATP Head2Head against the Greek, is something of a thorn in the side for Stefanos. Although they can only meet in the final in Madrid, it is an eventuality that Tsitsipas has in the back of his mind.
“It’s a long road to get to that point. We have two weeks here. I have to practise to improve things, that’s the only way that I know to change something in the future. I don’t have any other solutions for beating a player who’s a big obstacle for me” said Stefanos. “Carlos is someone who works extremely hard, you can see his flexibility on the court, his speed is immense. He’s someone who has so much focus and a dedication to the sport that’s tough to find. In order to get there, I’d have to spend hours on the court practising, also hours in the gym working out and hours in my room analysing my past performances and trying to get better”.
Therefore, the possibility of reaching another final in Madrid is something of a personal challenge for Tsitsipas. One of the most respected players on the red stuff is approaching these two weeks in the Spanish capital with the mentality of a champion; looking in the mirror in search of improvement.
“I’d have to work extremely hard in every match that I play to get the result that I want. And that is a series of matches that I would have to do back-to-back in order to get to that potential final that I’m looking for. A lot of players are in good shape right now, a lot of players are putting in the work. I’ve played a few matches in the last few weeks that give me a perspective of where my strong weapons are and how I can win points on clay. Of course, here we’re dealing with a little bit of altitude, which is a different scenario than Barcelona. I’m getting adjusted to that. It’s something that I’ve done pretty well in the past few years. I like the altitude, I think it’s good for my game. I see that as a small advantage”.