And Stefanos Tsitsipas smiles. Until then, we had been entitled to fifty shades of Greek, sometimes serene, sometimes sanguine. Arms raised, fists clenched, the Athenian savored the ovation descending from the stands of court Philippe-Chatrier. This time he is there, and tears misted his eyes. Subscribed to the semi-finals in the Grand Slam tournament, the world number 5 still stumbled at the doors of the upper floor. By taking the best of Alexander Zverev, Friday June 11 (6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3), Tsitsipas became, at 22, the first Greek to reach the final of one of the four biggest tennis tournaments in the world.
“I can only think of my roots, where I come from, a very small place. My dream was to play in a huge stadium, like that, at Roland-Garros ”, breathed the player at the microphone of Marion Bartoli. He, whose mother, a former hope of Soviet tennis (like that of his opponent of the day), paved the way, will carry the standard of the young guard of world tennis in the final on Sunday, facing one of the tutelary figures of his sport – Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has however complicated the task. After flying over the first two races, he struggled against an invigorated opponent. In the middle of the second set, the Greek had his quarter of an hour in Nadal, seeing him chain rallies, returning each ball like the Mallorcan metronome, and concluding at the net.
But Alexander Zverev has the resource, and having understood that he would not win the fight from the baseline, the German was more incisive, instilling doubt in the mind of his opponent. Winning the third and fourth sets, Zverev pushed the Greek to a thrilling fifth set.
“A difficult match, full of emotions”
“Sasha” even got three break points in the first game of the last set. But Tsitsipas decided not to let his chance pass anymore. Pushed by the Parisian public, the young Greek reversed the trend, and tightened the game.
“It was a breath of fresh air, I saw that I still had energy, and was able to fight back”, blew the winner in a press conference, happy to have won “A difficult match, full of emotions, I had to go through a lot”. Sunday, he should meet others.
Because time, inevitably, will eventually force the “Big 3” to turn on the flashing light, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas embody – with a handful of accomplices – the young guard whose clashes will punctuate the last squares of the Grand Slam tournaments .
After having eluded the Russian Daniil Medvedev in the previous round, Stefanos Tsitsipas emerged victorious from this battle of the “Next Gen” – a name marketed for four years by the ATP circuit in anticipation of the retirement of legends Nadal, Djokovic and Federer. And for once, he hasn’t crossed paths with one of them yet.
In this period when the organizers of events play with the rules like a druid with his potion – in the idea of finding the formula capable of capturing the youth -, one would almost come to imagine a tournament format where Rafael Nadal, eternal « defender », would play each year only the final of Roland-Garros. Master of the place, statufie during his lifetime, the “bull of Manacor” would spare himself the long preliminary rounds for records of service.
The players would probably not be against it. “I don’t want to be on the same side of the board as him next time”, launched the Argentinian Diego Schwarzmann, coming out of his lost quarter-final against the ogre of ocher. “I play very well on clay. I played well here in Paris, but I have always lost against Rafa for a few years. I play great games, it’s always tight for some time. But in the end, he wins. “
In Tsitsipas the heavy task of debunking the statues
If the scenario is science fiction, for the first time in a long time Porte d’Auteuil, the succession did not have to face a two-headed monster before reaching the final. For about fifteen years, to hope to win a Grand Slam title, it was necessary to successively beat two of the members of the Big 3. An almost impossible mission, ask Dominic Thiem. After scrapping five sets with Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the 2019 edition, the Austrian did not survive the second blade, making himself ” to walk on “ in the final by the sharp Nadal.
Like Alexander Zverev, young people are less and less satisfied with accessits. “I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I’m not interested in making it to the semi-finals, blew the German on Friday. The final either, I wouldn’t have minded. What I remember is that I did not win the tournament. “
More and more, the youth aspires to emancipate themselves. But to achieve this, he must win. Sunday, opposed to Nadal or Djokovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas will have the heavy task of having to unbolt a statue. The youngest finalist in a Grand Slam tournament since Andy Murray in 2010 at the Australian Open, the Greek understands the scale of the task. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to play against the best and put myself to the test, which I have always dreamed of. I always wished that would happen someday. It is finally a dream within my reach and I will try to make it a reality. “ Once again Stefanos Tsitsipas smiled.