Australian tennis great Mark Philippoussis says Stefanos Tsitsipas has grown since accusing Nick Kyrgios of “bullying” him during a tense Wimbledon encounter last year.
Tsitsipas was sent packing and then teed off on the Aussie following a fiery four-setter, with Kyrgios responding by calling the Greek superstar “soft”.
The loss to Kyrgios was followed by a first-round exit at Flushing Meadows months later, wrapping up a year to forget for Tsitsipas.
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However, the Tsitsipas that has arrived on Australian shores this summer has looked a remarkably different individual.
The 24-year-old enjoyed a strong showing representing his country at the United Cup, and that form has carried over to the Australian Open, where he is a quarter finalist.
Philippoussis was in Tsitsipas’ box as he blew his top – and ultimately the match – against Kyrgios last year, but suggested that the ugly Wimbledon exit could prove to be a turning point in the star’s career.
“Wimbledon was a big learning experience for him,” Philippoussis said.
“He did something that was very unlike him and he learnt from it in the hardest way.
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“That’s all you can do. You put yourself in the position and try and get away with the win, and if you don’t, you want to learn from it.
“A loss like that can actually be more beneficial than a win, and I believe that’s what happened in that situation.”
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The Australian icon started working with Tsitsipas on an official basis following Wimbledon and has since noticed a calmer figure out on the court.
“Last year I was calling all of his matches and it’s completely different than sitting in the box, but he looks very relaxed,” he said.
“I’m getting to know him more and more, but just like any human being you do mature more and more every year.
“Also as a player, having the experience of being in the semis last year is an advantage and can help in those big moments, especially spending time on Rod Laver Arena and those big courts.”
After breezing through his first three matches in straight sets, Tsitsipas faced some very real adversity in his fourth-round clash against the talented Jannik Sinner, with the Italian roaring back from a two-set deficit.
While the Tsitsipas of yesteryear may have crumbled, as he did in the 2021 Roland-Garros final when Novak Djokovic overcame the same deficit, the Greek star this time locked in and out-executed his foe in the deciding set.
Philippoussis admitted his role in the Tsitsipas box, alongside the star’s father and coach Apostolos, has been to “bring some calmness”.
“He’s such an incredible athlete physically and he’s a natural competitor and he’s got a big all-round game,” he said.
“For me, what’s difficult these days is because there is so much technology and all these stats at your fingertips, it’s very easy to get lost in all those things. They are important and you can use them in a beneficial way, but I also believe players can get lost and forget about playing their own game.
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“So my biggest thing for him is to go out there and have your game plan and play your game and of course make adjustments according to who you’re playing on that day.”
Having reinforced his mental toughness, Tsitsipas is now tipped by many to be ready to take the next step in his career: winning a grand slam title.
One man who’s backed him to do so is former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.
“He’s spent a long time on tour now,” he said.
“He’s been playing semis regularly in grand slams, he played a final in the French Open, and I think you learn.
“If he keeps fit … he’s going to become No.1 in the world soon.”
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