You wait ages for a bus and then three come along at once. Or so the saying goes. Greek tennis fans have been waiting for any sort of bus for years. Finally, it looks like they’re arriving. For a nation devoid of strength in depth on tour there is a promising trio emerging. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Maria Sakkari and Valentini Grammatikopolou are all developing superbly and could make waves in the coming years.
He may not be the highest ranked of the three (on the professional circuit) but Stefanos Tsitsipas undoubtedly has the most potential. The Athens-born 18-year-old is currently the top ranked junior in the world. Armed with a one-handed backhand and a powerful serve Tsitsipas already has one junior doubles Grand Slam title and five futures titles.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Leads Promising Greek Trio
The Greek teenager reached the summit of the junior rankings because of his consistency. He progressed to the quarter-finals of the junior Australian Open and French Open as well as the semi-finals of Wimbledon and the US Open during the 2016 season. It was on the green grass of south-west London where Tsitsipas got his first taste of Grand Slam glory. Alongside Kenneth Raisma, Tsitsipas won the Wimbledon junior doubles titles defeating the Canadian duo, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
A further strength Stefanos Tsitsipas can boast is his versatility. Grass was where he picked up his Grand Slam title but six of his nine futures and challengers finals have come on clay. The other three were on hard courts so the Wimbledon title seems like something of an anomaly. Evidently his style of play is not hindered by any particular playing surface.
Junior Number One Finding His Way on the Professional Circuit
Despite having played a full season of tennis, it is during the back end of the year that he has found form. The teenager has reached back-to-back challenger finals in Morocco over the last few weeks. Despite not winning either, the points earned have taken him to the brink of ending the season just inside the top #200. His form has not gone unnoticed either. The youngster was awarded a wildcard into qualifying for this week’s ATP 500 tournament in Basel. He may not have qualified, but he successfully upset Rajeev Ram as well as running Robin Haase close. This marks his first crack at an ATP tournament, an undoubted personal moment of achievement.
Standing at six foot and four inches, Stefanos Tsitsipas is a towering figure. His build is similar to Alexander Zverev and his forehand technique barely notable symmetry. Despite his frame though, he does seem to be lacking a touch of power off his groundstrokes. His serve also lacks the potency of the big German. One area where he may have an advantage though is in his mentality. Whilst Zverev is developing a reputation for getting wound up on court and smashing rackets, Tsitsipas seems calmer. This calmness is reflected in his tie-break statistics. Zverev may have won 19 of his 33 tie-breaks this year but Tsitsipas has won 26 out of 33, a remarkable record.
Maria Sakkari Already Down to a Double Digit Ranking
Whilst Tsitsipas seeks to become the first Greek man to break the top #100 in the Open era, Maria Sakkari has already done it. Her run through qualifying and into the second round of Wimbledon this year propelled her ranking into double digits. At just 21 years of age, Sakkari’s progress has been impressive. Her ranking has been consistently improving since she turned professional and she will end this year inside the top #100.
Like Stefanos Tsitsipas, Maria Sakkari was born in Athens. Her game is steady with a particular potency off the backhand side. At five foot eight inches she is not the tallest player but still has a relatively reliable serve. Furthermore she has a number of eye-catching upsets already, even at this stage of her career. In New Haven this year she beat Heather Watson, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Camila Giorgi, all ranked above her. Her biggest scalp to date was when she demolished top seeded Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2 6-3 in Istanbul.
Sakkari has a game which should see her begin to make her way towards the top #50 in 2017. A major plus is that, to date, she appears to have been able to avoid injuries. If she remains healthy there is little to suggest that the solidity of her game will not take her much higher. Now that she is guaranteed entry to Grand Slam’s due to her ranking, it will be interesting to see whether she can make a third or fourth round next year.
Valentini Grammatikopoulou Finding Success on the Doubles Scene
The third member of these Greek musketeers is Valentini Grammitikopoulou. She is a year older than Stefanos Tsitsipas but their rankings are around the same mark. There is a little less excitement surround Grammitikopoulou given she only peaked at 190 in the junior rankings. Despite this, she already has a vast array of professional finals to her name. At just 19 she has already reached 18 ITF singles finals, winning half of them.
She has really found a home for herself on the doubles court though. Whilst only managing to add one singles title to her collection this year, she claimed six doubles titles. Given that she is only the nineteenth highest ranked teenager in singles, it’s hard not to wonder whether she will dedicate more time to doubles in the future. Clearly she has supreme pedigree when joined on court by a partner.
For a nation with as little tennis history as Greece, these are certainly promising times. To have one player already in the top one hundred is achievement enough. To have another two rapidly following suit just adds to the excitement. Greece still has a long way to go to ever be considered a prolific tennis nation. Yet there is every reason for Greece to lick its lips at the potential of this up-and-coming generation.