Stefanos Tsitsipas is leaning on Mark Philippoussis as the Greek ace plots to end Nick Kyrgios’s rollercoaster Wimbledon campaign in a third-round show-stopper.
After taking serving tips from Australia’s former Wimbledon finalist at Melbourne Park in January, Tsitsipas has invited Philippoussis back into his inner sanctum ahead of Saturday’s big-hitting showdown at the All England Club.
It took the great Roger Federer in his maiden grand slam final in 2003 to stop Philippoussis from serving his way to glory on London’s hallowed grass courts.
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Now, Team Tsitsipas is only too happy to tap into the experience of the man who was known as ‘the Scud’ in honour of his missile serves, as they seek to tame another Australian who can belt them down, with 54 aces to Kyrgios’s name so far in just two matches.
“Mark is someone that I know since a long time now. We’ve been collaborating in the past a little bit. He’s a good friend of ours. We also speak the same language,” said world No.5 Tsitsipas.
“There’s good connection with him, which matters a lot. Not only on the tennis court, but I think he has good values as a person. Obviously, we respect him a lot.
“We also like being around him as a family, the Tsitsipas family. He has been a very good friend. We’ve been seeing him in other grand slams, too.
“He happened to be at Wimbledon. My dad offered him to be next to us. That’s how it’s going so far. Nothing more. Nothing less.”
Kyrgios has been in slick grass-court touch all summer and found a new gear in Thursday’s 6-2 6-3 6-1 second-round demolition of Filip Krajinovic, a Queen’s Club finalist only two weeks ago.
“Was just unplayable with him. I’ve played with so many guys and I never really felt someone destroy me like that,” a glumly resigned Krajinovic told AAP.
“He was serving big, returning well, hitting winners – 80 or something per cent first serves, hitting two first-serves, everything in, what can you do?…. Nothing. That’s the reality.
“With a game like he played against me, sure, he can beat anybody.
“Look at the stats, the guy was … I dunno, 50 winners, 30 aces, two first-serves, second serves 200 kilometres per hour.
“I’m totally fine with it – if someone’s playing like that, you just shake their hand. I was not even close.”
With three defeats from as many tour meetings with Kyrgios, including a brilliant three-setter at Halle a fortnight ago, Tsitsipas will take all the help he can get.
“Nick has more matches on me in these courts. He claims to like grass. I think his game is good for the grass,” said Tsitsipas.
“I am definitely thrilled to be facing him. I respect him a lot, on the court, what he’s trying to do. Although he has been a little controversial in the past, I think he’s playing good tennis.
“I’m going to try and concentrate on doing my thing and pay attention to my own game from start to finish. Hopefully I can stay there and do something great, have a great competitive match against him.”