Greek diaspora helping Stefanos Tsitsipas feel at home at Australian Open

Stefanos Tsitsipas in action Credit: Alamy
Stefanos Tsitsipas in action Credit: Alamy

Stefanos Tsitsipas breezed into the third round of the Australian Open with another straight sets win on Wednesday. According to the third seed in the men’s singles, he is being helped by a crowd that feels as though it were at his home stadium.

As per the 2021 census, 1.7% of people in Australia stated that they had Greek ancestry. It is thus little surprise that Athens-born Tsitsipas, 24, feels at home in Melbourne, an area which even by Aussie standards has a large Greek population.

He certainly looked at home on the court on Wednesday, beating Rinky Hijikata 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. Previously, he also disposed of Quentin Halys in straight sets in the first round.

“Felt good out there, the ball was coming off the racket really well,” said Tsitsipas on Wednesday, according to Reuters. “I enjoyed myself tonight.”

He added: “Whenever I’m back here it feels like home.”

Tsitsipas is chasing a first grand slam title, although he has consistently been among the best men’s singles players in the world in recent years. His nearest miss was a Roland Garros final defeat in 2021 to Novak Djokovic, while he has made the Australian Open semi-finals in 2019, 2021 and 2022.

Should he emerge victorious this time, he will emerge as the top-ranked men’s singles player in the world.

Tsitsipas was previously the world’s top-ranked junior, so has had always been up against the weight of expectation.

He is scheduled to face the unseeded Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands in the third round on Friday in what could be viewed as a relatively favourable draw.

However, Griekspoor is not to be taken lightly after he disposed of 32nd seed and fellow Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

The expectation on Tsitsipas’ shoulders may once again prove to be an obstacle for him, as he is now the second-highest seeded men’s singles player still left in the draw. Top seed Rafael Nadal was stunned by Mackenzie McDonald, with his title defence now over.

Norwegian Casper Ruud, the second seed, has yet to play his second round match. Unlike Tsitsipas, he has already dropped a set, beating Thomas Machac 6-3, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 in his first round clash.

Ruud, like Tsitsipas, has never won a grand slam, coming up short in final defeats last year at Roland Garros to Nadal and the US Open to Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz is out of the Australian Open with injury and there has been widespread speculation that fourth seed Novak Djokovic is playing on through trouble with his hamstring.

By Leonard Solms

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