Stefanos Tsitsipas opens up about being inspired by Pete Sampras and Roger Federer to choose the ‘classic’ one-handed backhand

Stefanos Tsitsipas recently opened up about why he decided to stick with the one-handed backhand even though it is not as pragmatic as the double-hander, revealing that he had been inspired by watching Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

On Friday, the Greek booked his spot in the semifinals of the 2023 Paris Masters, defeating Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-4 in straight sets. Speaking at his press conference afterwards, Tsitsipas was asked about his one-handed backhand style and the reasons he chose it initially.

The World No. 6 responded that he had always thought that it was a “classic shot,” especially having grown up watching Sampras and Federer cut through opponents with their trademark single-handed backhands.

“To me, one-handed backhand always felt like the classic shot. I saw it on TV. I thought, that’s the classic shot. That’s how tennis was firstly played, and that’s the classic shot that Sampras, one of my favorite players, played that shot. Well, at the time I was pretty young to watch Roger Federer matches, but I do remember him later when I was about six years old,” Stefanos Tsitsipas said.

However, the 25-year-old admitted that he made the choice when he was eight years old, thanks to a childhood coach who demanded that he stick with one play style instead of switching every day.

“To me, it was a shot selection that I chose at eight years old. I kind of got stuck with it. I worked on it. I tried double-handed backhand. I remember the day where I chose to play single-handed backhand,” Tsitsipas recalled.

“One of my coaches came on court — not my main coach, one of the coaches of the club — and told me, Stef, kinda decide. You’re switching every day. On Mondays you play double and then on Tuesdays you switch to single. Come on, decide it. You are eight years old already, nine years old,” he added.

It was not a choice that Stefanos Tsitsipas regrets by any measure of the word, as he joked that it was hard to even imagine seeing himself with a double-handed backhand these days.

“I don’t know how old I was. He said, You’ve got to decide and stick to it. I remember that day. I was driving back home with my father. He picked me up from practice, and I told him, You know what? I’m going to stick to a double-handed backhand. The next day I switched to a single-handed backhand once and for all,” Stefanos Tsitsipas said.

“I remember that day. Yeah. I don’t think a double-handed backhand would look too good on me. Can you picture me today? (Smiling.) It’s tough to picture it, isn’t it?” he added.

Stefanos Tsitsipas: “I don’t know what my very best level is”

France Tennis Paris Masters
France Tennis Paris Masters

Up next, Stefanos Tsitsipas will take on Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinals in Paris-Bercy. Yet to lose a set at the Masters 1000 event, the Greek has defeated top players in the form of Felix Auger-Aliassime, Alexander Zverev and Khachanov in his last three matches.

Regardless, Tsitsipas did not want to proclaim that this is the best he has played, stating that he simply doesn’t know what his very best level is and that he tries to produce it at every tournament he steps into.

“Well, the thing in all this is, I don’t know what my very best level is. I had a pretty good level at the Australian Open this year. It was good. It wasn’t my best, but it was very good,” Stefanos Tsitsipas said.

“Then I have played one of my best tennis in Nitto Finals in London years ago. And I kind of feel like every single tournament or every single chance that I get to be on the court, it’s a new opportunity for me to show probably my best level ever,” he added.

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