Stefanos Tsitsipas Monday said he was a more mature and confident player than the one that made the Australian Open semi-finals last year after opening his 2020 campaign by crushing Salvatore Caruso in straight sets.
Expectations are high for the 21-year-old, who stunned Roger Federer in 2019 en route to the final four, announcing himself as a force to be reckoned with.
He went on to win titles in Marseille and Estoril before making a big breakthrough by claiming the season-ending ATP Finals in London – the youngest to do so since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001.
“I definitely feel like I’m more experienced now. Last year I did feel more as a kid who was trying to get confidence by doing certain things on the court,” he said after his 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 demolition of the Italian.
“Now I feel like I’m more mature and more conserved in my thinking. I also think what I feel now compared to before, I’m just very sure with myself. I don’t really doubt myself that much.”
Tsitsipas came into the opening Grand Slam of the year on the back of a mixed build up – losing to Denis Shapovalov and Nick Kyrgios at the ATP Cup, but beating Alexander Zverev.
But world number 95 Caruso posed few problems for the Greek, who enjoyed rowdy support in a city that has a large community from his homeland.
“I think from their side they should be a little bit more respectful to the opponents. That’s all,” he said of the fans’ chanting. “Nothing else. I mean, they can do what they’re doing but probably with more respect.”
The 1.93m (6ft 4in) right-hander broke the Italian’s opening service game to quickly take charge, sprinting through the first set in just 22 minutes and conceding just nine points.
Bidding to reach the second round for the first time, Caruso perked up in the second set, showing more backbone to win two games.
But the writing was on the wall and Tsitsipas raced to victory in convincing fashion, yelling “let’s go” as he served out the match.
“I tried to stay calm and be aggressive, I was very focused and in the zone,” said the sixth seed. “I was very happy with the first set. It was almost perfect. I can’t remember the last time I went 6-0. It was good quality.”
Tsitsipas is bidding to become the youngest Australian Open men’s singles champion since Novak Djokovic in 2008, and prove he can be more consistent at Grand Slams.
But apart from his Melbourne run last year, he wasn’t a threat at the Majors, losing in the first-round at Wimbledon and the US Open and in the fourth round at Roland Garros.
He said his experience in Melbourne last year still resonated with him.
“I get goosebumps when I think about what I went through and I hope to experience even better this year,” he said.