By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Stefanos Tsitsipas silenced the raucous Roger Federer fan club as he knocked the 20-times Grand Slam champion out of the ATP Finals on Saturday and hopes to one day be as popular as the Swiss great.
Only the most one-eyed Federer followers could not have been impressed with the Greek’s 6-3 6-4 victory, achieved with the kind of tennis they are used to seeing from their idol.
With his fearless, eye-pleasing groundstrokes, regular forays to the net and booming serves, the engaging 21-year-old certainly has much to applaud. But he knows the Federer followers will be tough to win over.
“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,” Tsitsipas said.
“And I would love to see one day potentially a fan base and people come to the court like they do for Roger, because it’s an army. And you need that. You need an army like this.
“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.”
The way Tsitsipas responded when put under intense pressure on Saturday was impressive. He saved 11 of the 12 break points he faced and survived an epic 13-minute game when he served for the first set at 5-3, sealing it at the seventh time of asking.
Worryingly for the fellow young guns who will surely be vying for major glory with Tsitsipas, he appears to thrive on adversity and relish a fight, as he showed when losing to ultimate warrior Rafael Nadal in a three-hour match he didn’t even need to win on Friday.
“I don’t really see it as a pressure,” Tsitsipas said when asked about saving so many crucial points against Federer.
“I mostly see it as a challenge for me. He’s up a breakpoint, I see that as a challenge to overcome the difficulty. It’s like you’re basically — you know it’s going to be difficult. I have managed to turn that into a challenge and try to be as aggressive as possible.”
Tsitsipas will face Austrian Dominic Thiem or defending champion Alexander Zverev in the final.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)