The 2019 season will always be one to remember for Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, and not just because of his success on the court.
Tsitsipas met his idol, former World No. 1 Pete Sampras, for the first time at Indian Wells. The Greek and his family got to briefly chat with Sampras, an American of Greek origin with whom he happens to share a birthday.
“That (dreaming) face you make when you meet the first guy that you’ve ever watched play tennis on TV. The person that made you want to go out at the tennis courts in the beach, made you dream about playing on all of the big stages and arenas around the world, winning trophies and titles, becoming an inspiration for others,” Tsitsipas wrote on Instagram. “Despite being at the end of his career, my childhood was filled with @petesamprasofficial matches and battles that I will never forget. This person has given me courage and eagerness to pursue my dream. A dream that felt insanely difficult to reach.
“It’s an honour to be standing next to you Pete. Thank you for filling my childhood with enthusiasm, hope, hard work ethic and… for me to play tennis in the first place. You are an inspiration up to this day, and I hope and inspiration for many generations to come.”
Sampras may have played under the United States flag, but he inspired Greek children like Tsitsipas. Stefanos’ brother, Petros Tsitsipas — who will help Stefanos lead Team Greece in the inaugural ATP Cup next month — is named after Sampras, according to an Instagram post.
With Tsitsipas’ increasing success — he just lifted the biggest title of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals — there will be plenty of people inspired to try to follow in his footsteps. That doesn’t add pressure for the Greek, though. It makes him even more excited for his journey to come.
“It’s very motivating to be the one who can create history in Greece and have kids look up to me later. They, like my parents did after my early losses, can be the ones chasing after me and shouting my name. I can inspire them and be the leader of tennis in Greece,” Tsitsipas said to the ATP.
Top 10 Greek Players In History By ATP Ranking
|Stefanos Tsitsipas||No. 5|
|Nicholas Kalogeropoulos||No. 108|
|Konstantinos Economidis||No. 112|
|Vasilis Mazarakis||No. 115|
|Solon Peppas||No. 149|
|George Kalovelonis||No. 208|
|Nicolas Kelaidis||No. 244|
|Theodoros Angelinos||No. 251|
|Taso Vasiliadis||No. 365|
|Arthur Anastopoulo||No. 376|
One player who Tsitsipas has motivated is Greek No. 2 Michail Pervolarakis, who will be the country’s second singles player when Greece faces Russia, the United States and Norway in Brisbane in Group D action.
“He’s a really nice guy, so overall it’s just an amazing experience being with him. We talk sometimes. I actually just had a baby, I send him pictures of my baby sometimes,” Pervolarakis told ATPTour.com. “[He has] a very big impact [in Greece]. Everyone now is watching tennis in the most random places. Instead of soccer or basketball they’re watching tennis and the [Nitto] ATP Finals or Grand Slams. I think those kids want to play and connect with Stefanos. They want to start and see what the sport is all about. It’s just becoming bigger in general as a sport.”
Tsitsipas has already competed under the spotlight against the world’s best. But the Greek knows the inaugural ATP Cup provides a special chance for him to not just play against the best players in the world, but to do it for his country.
“We all have something extra inside of ourselves,” Tsitsipas said. “We’re playing for the country, which makes it very important for us.”
Sourced by: ATP Tour