Cold Welcome: A Tough Top Ten Debut for Tsitsipas in Indian Wells

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It’s been an incredible six months for Stefanos Tsitsipas — he’s had a sparkling, high-profile win over Roger Federer at the Australian Open, DMed with Naomi Osaka, added to his sizable (and puzzled) social media following, and achieved a life-long goal of reaching the top ten. But, into each life some rain must fall — Federer exacted revenge last week in Dubai, those DMs were published, Tsitsipas was hacked, and today, he suffered a second round loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime, one of the few guys on the tour who would see Tsitsipas as a relative veteran.

While the 6-4, 6-2 win for the 18 year old Auger-Aliassime might seem like a shock, the young Canadian is actually 4-0 against Tsitsipas, with the first three coming when both played junior tennis. Tsitsipas noted his losing head-to-head record, and remarked, “in the future, I will have to find some solutions, because I don’t like losing to him.”

In addition to the tough opponent across the net, Tsitsipas admitted that his title run in Marseille and finalist appearance in Dubai might have left him with too little in the tank to go far in Indian Wells.

“I feel like I had enough of tennis already,” he remarked, explaining that “when you do the same thing over and over again, you might get tired.” Given his early exit in the desert, Tsitsipas will have some time to regroup before the next Masters 1000 event, the Miami Open. When asked how he planned to recharge before then, the social media maven responded, “disconnect…do something else, not even watch the matches.”

That isn’t to say that the 20 year old from Greece is disheartened. He remarked about Indian Wells, “this is a nice place to do well” and affirmed his desire to achieve consistency. Tsitsipas spoke admiringly the ability of tennis’ reigning kings Djokovic, Federer and Nadal to achieve such remarkable consistency over the years, given the difficulty of staying fresh while doing the same thing year after year.

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It might seem odd for a tennis player to lament the monotony of repetition. After all, the very essence of the game has been the trading of shots from the baseline, hitting balls against a wall over and over to achieve consistency in one’s strokes, or serving buckets of balls to master placement. But Tsitsipas is, on a relative basis not a grinder. His instagram feed has emo photos interspersed among the tournament shots. He posts travel vlogs, and asks big questions:

How do we stay human in an addicting technological world?— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) March 3, 2019

(Answer: I have no idea. But if you’re reading this on your phone, maybe put the phone down when you’re done reading and talk to a person somewhere.)

He’s not the first one to ask these questions, but so many who have achieved the success that Tsitsipas has been predicted to achieve have put the complicated questions to the side. Even Novak Djokovic, the guy next most likely to ask the big unponderable questions, seems to have found his stride by simplifying back to a tactical coach from his forays into more New Age directions.

But that’s not how Tsitsipas sees it. Musing about the secret to the success of the Big Three over all of these years’ grind on the tour, he breaks out into a wry smile and says, “maybe they don’t do the same thing every day.”

After that first rush of success, it remains to be seen whether Tsitsipas can accept enough of the grind to be sufficiently consistent over a season or, perhaps, over an era, as he hopes. That said, even though today may not have been his day, it’s fair to expect that, no matter what, Tsitsipas will be true to his word, or rather, tweet:

“I promise, I’ll keep it interesting.”