Australian great Mark Philippoussis believes a more mature Stefanos Tsitsipas will have an “advantage” from his three semi-final defeats at Melbourne Park as he chases maiden grand slam glory.
Philippoussis – who co-coaches Tsitsipas with the Greek star’s father, Apostolos – began working with the world No.4 at Wimbledon last year, where he lost in the fourth round to Nick Kyrgios, and formalised the relationship after that tournament.
Mark Philippoussis watches Stefanos Tsitsipas in action.Credit:Getty Images
Tsitsipas, 24, outlasted young Italian star Jannik Sinner in an epic five-setter on Sunday night and is the highest-ranked player left in the draw as he prepares for a quarter-final clash with fast-rising Czech Jiri Lehecka.
The two sets he lost against Sinner were his first of the event in what has otherwise been an emphatic run to the last eight, at what is as close to a home grand slam as he will get, given Melbourne’s large Greek community.
“[This time] last year, I was calling all of his matches, so it’s completely different than sitting in the [player] box, but he looks very relaxed,” Philippoussis said.
“He’s worked very hard in the off-season. He’s put in the work and he’s hitting the ball well, but, look, if guys are in the quarter-finals, everyone’s playing great tennis.
“It doesn’t matter what they’re ranked or seeded – it’s not going to be easy, and you’ve just got to focus on whoever’s in front of you on that day.
“Having the experience of being in the semis the last few years here is an advantage, and can help with those big moments – especially spending those times on Rod Laver Arena.”
Tsitsipas’ fiery Wimbledon exit to Australia’s Kyrgios, which cost him a $10,000 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct, including twice belting balls out of the stadium, was another “big learning experience”, Philippoussis said.
“He did something that’s unlike him, and he learned from it in the hardest way, so that’s all he could do,” he said.
Philippoussis keeps a watchful eye on Tsitsipas at Melbourne Park.Credit:Getty Images
“You put yourself in the position and try and get away with the win and if you don’t, you want to learn from it – and a loss like that can actually be more beneficial than a win, and I believe that’s what happened in that situation.”
Philippoussis said it was important for Tsitsipas to maintain a narrow focus with so many distractions, which is something he hoped he could help him with.
“It’s bringing calmness because he’s such an incredible athlete physically, and he is a natural competitor who’s got a big game but a big all-round game,” he said.
“What’s difficult these days is because there’s so much technology having input, or at your fingertips, and all these stats and everything going on during matches … I think it’s very easy to get lost in those things.
“They are important, and you could use them in a beneficial way. But, I also believe players can get lost and forget about playing their own game.”
As such, do not expect Philippoussis to be too involved verbally during matches, even though coaches now have the green light to give their players basic instructions.
Tsitsipas’ father has been widely criticised in the past for yelling out mid-match advice when it was still banned, so it was pointed out to Philippoussis that the rule change could prove helpful to them.
“Look, he’s a coach, but No.1, he’s the father – and coach second,” Philippoussis said.
“Man, I watch my son, he’s eight years old, plays under-12s basketball, and I get nervous, so I don’t know about watching my son play a grand slam.”
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