Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates victory over Roger Federer at the Nitto ATP Finals (PA Images)
Stefanos Tsitsipas hopes for a fan ‘army’ of his own after defeating Roger Federer at the ATP Finals.
Facing Roger Federer at the O2 Arena also means facing a partisan crowd overwhelmingly in favour of his opponent, as Stefanos Tsitsipas discovered on Saturday.
Finding that the majority of the crowd was cheering extremely enthusiastically for his opponent will not have been a new experience for Tsitsipas, who has also played Federer at the Australian Open (where Federer is a six-time champion), in Dubai (his adopted home) and at the Swiss Indoors Basel in his native Switzerland. And the Greek, the first man from his nation to have qualified for the season-ending championships, did not let it stop him from scoring his second and most one-sided victory so far over Federer on Saturday, beating the six-time ATP Finals champion 6-3, 6-4 to book himself a place in the final.
Tsitsipas confessed afterwards that he would like to one day enjoy something of the same kind of crowd support extended to Federer.
‘I hope they like me when I play out on the court, because I feel like I have a lot of things to offer for tennis,’ the 21-year-old said.
‘And I would love to see one day, potentially, a fan base and people [coming] to the court like they do for Roger, because it’s an army. And you need that. You need an army like this.’
The matches the Greek player has played on his debut at the ATP Finals will surely contribute to crowd support for him on future appearances and in Sunday’s final against Dominic Thiem or Alexander Zverev, because Tsitsipas has lit up the O2 Arena this week with both his audacious shotmaking and his impressive results. The youngest player in the field, Tsitsipas defeated US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev and defending champion Zverev in the round-robin before narrowly losing to Rafael Nadal in an electrifying duel which lasted almost three hours on Friday. Despite the physically and emotionally draining nature of that match, and having considerably less rest than Federer who had played his final round-robin match the day before, Tsitsipas was the sharper and more focused player on court during Saturday’s first semifinal, saving 11 of the 12 break points he faced while converting three of the break points he himself created to score the straight-sets win over Federer.
Tsitsipas, currently ranked world no. 6, is the 13th player in the history of the ATP Finals to make the final on their first appearance, and is hoping to become the seventh player to win the tournament on their debut, following in the footsteps of luminaries like Stan Smith, Ilie Nastase, Guillermo Vilas and John McEnroe, and most recently Alex Corretja (1998) and Grigor Dimitrov (2017).
The O2 Arena crowds have become used to familiar faces in the final over the tournament’s ten-year sojourn at the venue. When the season-ending championships moved to London from Shanghai in 2009, Nikolay Davydenko won the inaugural edition, but between 2010 and 2015 the tournament was won by Novak Djokovic or Federer every year, and they were succeeded in 2016 by one of the very few men who might be able to challenge Federer for popularity in London, Andy Murray.
Things have been changing in recent years, however. Dimitrov faced Belgium’s David Goffin in the 2017 final, while Zverev overcame Djokovic to claim the title in 2018 (not before being booed by the crowd after beating Federer in the semifinals, however). Now for the third year in a row, the ATP Finals will have a champion from outside the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic-Murray quartet, with Murray not playing and Nadal and Djokovic going out in the group stages before Tsitsipas eliminated Federer.
As the first man from his country to have qualified for the season-ending championships, Tsitsipas is already assured of Greek support. Asked how significant it was to have support from Greek fans, Tsitsipas said, with a smile: ‘Well it’s very important, although today I did feel like [there were] more Swiss fans than Greek fans.
‘Yeah, I tried not to be bothered by this, because I did receive a lot of fan support until this match today, and I did hear people yell my name and supporting me in Greek.
‘[…] I enjoy having people from Greece come support me, and I hope they do more often, because that makes me feel closer to playing home, let’s say. Gives me a tremendous amount of energy.’
Should Tsitsipas triumph in Sunday’s ‘final of finals’ and become the Nitto ATP Finals champion, it would not only be the biggest achievement of his career thus far, but would be a significant first step in amassing that ‘army’ of his own.
‘I want to feel connected with people. I want to be known as a good tennis player because that’s what the fans want to see. They want to see a good personality,’ Tsitsipas said.
Tsitsipas on partisan Federer support at the O2 Arena: ‘You need an army like this’
Stefanos Tsitsipas hopes for a fan ‘army’ of his own after defeating Roger Federer at the ATP Finals. Facing Roger…
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