There was plenty for Stefanos Tsitsipas to feel good about in 2021.
The Athenian captured his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo, reached his first major final at Roland Garros, went 55-19, and climbed to a career-high No. 3. But few knew that, after a right elbow injury forced him out of the Paris Masters and the year-end ATP Finals, he was at perhaps the lowest point of his career; so low, in fact, that he considered walking away from the sport for good.
“I went through a period of a lot of stress, a period where I didn’t enjoy playing tennis anymore because the pain was so big and so intense,” said Tsitsipas, who went under the knife in November. “I wasn’t able to enjoy the game that I love the most. I remember being at the ATP Finals a few days before the surgery and I was thinking of quitting. I didn’t think back then that anyone would be able to help me heal and get back to where I wanted. It was a very difficult moment that I had to go through. I was in a very bad place.”
His doctors initially targeted a spring 2022 return, with the Greek star back on the court in time to defend his points on the European clay. But Tsitsipas bucked the prognosis, healing up far faster than anyone expected. In fact, he bounced in time to kick off the new year at the ATP Cup and the Australian Open, where he played his way into the semifinals. Last month, he pushed through to the Rotterdam final (l. to Felix Auguer-Aliassime, 6-4, 6-2).
“It was not normal, not normal at all,” said Tsitsipas on Wednesday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. “It was kind of a miracle, in a way. The fact that I was able to go deep in the Australian Open was the best thing that has happened in my career so far in regards of a comeback, after such a difficult injury that I suffered with for many years.”
The 23-year-old hopes to leave those dark thoughts behind for good in 2022.
“I wasn’t able to stay motivated because I didn’t believe in myself,” he confided. “I wasn’t able to be where I wanted to be. My body was stopping me from going there. It was very sad to feel helpless, in a way. I felt weak and I felt unable to reach new heights. I want to feel consistent, and I want to feel good about myself this year.”
A title run at the BNP Paribas Open would do wonders to make that happen. Last year, Tsitsipas reached the quarterfinals here for the first time (l. to eventual runner-up Nikoloz Basilashvili, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4). Taking the trophy in 2022 might be just the confidence boost he needs.
Said Tsitsipas, “It could give me a massive amount of confidence to win Grand Slam titles if I pull that off.”