Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrated his 23rd birthday paying tribute to the tennis hero who inspired him.
Tsitsipas shares an August 12th birthday with his tennis role model, Hall of Famer Pete Sampras, who celebrates his 50th birthday today.
The third-ranked Greek said Sampras, who is of Greek descent, gifted him the love of all-court tennis through his dynamic performance.
“[Sampras’] flamboyant game. I enjoyed watching his serve-and-volley game,” Tsitsipas told the media in Toronto after defeating Karen Khachanov to reach the quarterfinals. “People say Roger Federer is effortless. I also feel like Pete Sampras was very effortless and just making the game so beautiful to watch.
“He’s someone that also, because of his Greek descent, you know, my dad, when he started tennis at a late age, around 18 to 20 years old at the university, that was a player that he really liked to watch and he passed it on to me.”
Tsitsipas and his father met Sampras at the 2019 Indian Wells—a transformative experience for Tsitsipas.
“Despite being at the end of his career, my childhood was filled with Pete Sampras matches and battles that I will never forget. This person has given me courage and eagerness to pursue my dream. A dream that felt insanely difficult to reach,” Tsitsipas posted on Instagram.. “It’s an honor to be standing next to you Pete.
“Thank you for filling my childhood with enthusiasm, hope, hard work ethic and an eager for me to play tennis in the first place. You are an inspiration up to this day, and I hope and inspiration for many generations to come.”
Both Tsitsipas and Sampras played with Wilson racquets, both possessed imposing forehands and both are standout athletes quick off the mark and great leapers. Tsitsipas has cited John Isner, Milos Raonic and Sampras as the most dangerous servers he’s seen.
“I’m sure Pete Sampras had a great second serve,” Tsitsipas said. “He would hit aces with it from time to time. I’ve not played him. I can’t really judge or tell. “I’m probably going for John Isner’s first serve and Milos Raonic’s second serve.”
Photo credit: ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament Facebook