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Shocked by Tsitsipas? Don’t be

Matt Zemek

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Geoff Burke -- USA TODAY Sports

Stefanos Tsitsipas is part of several familiar dynamics in the tennis industry.

The good news which emerges when a young tennis player takes center stage: Websites such as ours have plenty of chances to dive into the story of that young player.

The less comforting news (I won’t call it “bad news”) is that with scrutiny comes struggle. Living in the media fishbowl of the top tier of global tennis is not normally an easy adjustment for a young athlete. Getting more attention from other players complicates life ON the court. Media attention complicates life OFF the court.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is going through a journey which is entirely common and natural for young players who make a big and positive imprint on the tennis world. Learning how to handle scrutiny; adjusting to opponents; being comfortable in one’s own skin yet restrained in responding to setbacks or false starts; absorbing losses with the right mix of patience and urgency — these and other coping skills are part of the formula for those who want to be elite champions.

At the Rogers Cup, Tsitsipas drank from a cup of suffering… and no one should be too concerned that he did.

Tsitsipas was excused from Montreal by Hubert Hurkacz, a long-limbed ballstriker who recalls (for me) Robin Soderling. Hurkacz gave the world a glimpse of his considerable talent at Wimbledon, where he played Novak Djokovic on even terms through two sets before the World No. 1 pulled away in sets 3 and 4.

Hurkacz can play. Losing to him in a best-of-3 match after a full week of tennis in Washington, D.C., is hardly cause for alarm in and of itself.

For anyone who thinks that Tsitsipas ought to hold himself to a higher standard… that’s not necessarily WRONG, but a player who is about to turn 21 years old should not be expected to master the competitive arts. This is a work in progress.

The Rogers Cup did not reveal a key weakness or expose Tsitsipas in a meaningful way. Is it noticeable that Tsitsipas lost early in Canada after playing in Washington? Yes… and that is more a product of scheduling than raw tennis acumen.

Tsitsipas might have learned this year what Alexander Zverev learned last year: Rest more. Put your body in position to be supremely fresh for the 1,000-point tournaments. Come to Canada without extra tread on the tires.

Beyond that, I’m not sure what Tsitsipas has to learn from this loss to Hurkacz.

Some losses are more damaging than others. I will be sure to let you know when Stefanos Tsitsipas loses a match in a manner which causes alarm bells to ring.

This was not it.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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