Zoe Ball surprised by message from Stefanos Tsitsipas
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Few stars have made more headlines at Flushing Meadows this past fortnight than Stefanos Tsitsipas. Despite Emma Raducanu’s sensational run to the semi-finals, and Novak Djokovic’s quest for a record breaking 21st Grand Slam, it’s the controversial bathroom breaks taken by the Greek star that could yet be the tournament’s defining memory. Fans and fellow players have been angered by Tsitsipas, 23, taking extended trips to the toilet during his matches – which many have perceived as an attempt to gain an advantage.
The third seed was heavily criticised by Britain’s Andy Murray after taking a break after dropping a set of up to eight minutes during the pair’s first round, which ended in an epic five-set win for Tsitsipas.
Seemingly unfazed, he followed suit in his next two matches, a straight sets win over Adrian Mannarino before exiting the tournament at the hands of Carlos Alcaraz.
On both the latter occasions, he was roundly booed by the crowd who were fully behind Spaniard Alcaraz as he prevailed 6-3 4-6 7-6 0-6 7-6. It’s led to the 2021 French Open finalist having to defiantly defend himself against accusations of gamesmanship, whilst also pointing out he’s not broken any rules.
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“When people are not really in the sport and don’t know what is happening, I mean, all these accusations have been completely false,” said Tsitipas, after his defeat to Alcaraz.
“I know all of these things have been against me for no reason. I took my toilet break as a normal athlete. Might have taken a bit longer than other athletes.
“But if there is a rule that says there’s a specific amount of time that you are allowed to take, then I would probably try and follow that protocol, that rule, and stay within the guidelines and try and follow it as much as possible.”
His comments however, have done little to stem the backlash.
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NADAL’S UNCLE GETS INVOLVED
Toni Nadal, uncle and former coach of Rafael Nadal, has been one of several high-profile names to weigh in, arguing the Greek player’s conduct fell short of standards set by the likes of his nephew and Roger Federer.
“I think that no follower of our sport can imagine Roger Federer or Rafael, I don’t see why not say it, looking for extra-sporting shortcuts to achieve victory,” he said.
“The way he (Tsitsipas) acted was not fair. Rafa or Federer would never do that. Stricter rules should be implemented for the bathroom breaks.”
Nadal’s uncle then insisted Tsitsipas does not need to pursue such antics in order to achieve success.
“Tsitsipas is undoubtedly a brilliant player and as such we expect him to win without the need for any ruse that he can profit from,” the Spaniard continued.
“Obviously you don’t need them. A great champion, and he is on the way to achieve it, not only because of his victories but because of how he achieves them.”
DJOKOVIC HAULED INTO DEBATE
Tsitspas’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou not only rebuffed Nadal’s words, but argued his player had simply learnt from world number one Djokovic.
“When he lost his Roland Garros final he was two sets to love up. Djokovic took a toilet break, came back and then it was a different match. He learned from that,” argued Mouratoglou.
“He didn’t learn that Djokovic broke his rhythm. He found out that Djokovic took time for himself in the locker room and was able to reset and come back different. He learned that, tried it and it worked out for him.
“That’s why he continues to do it.”
The 51-year-old then added: “When a player takes a toilet break, he takes a toilet break most of the time not because he needs the toilet but because it is a moment for him to reset and to refocus. Most of the time he’s lost the set. He needs to calm down, be alone and be within himself to find himself a solution and that is the only thing that Stefanos does.”
FEUD WITH ZVEREV
Alexander Zverev has been another to add his voice to the debate, siding with Murray after his first round exit and saying Tsitsipas had used lengthy bathroom breaks as a tactic in previous matches, including once against him in Cincinnati.
When asked for his opinion on the matter, Zverev said: “It’s not normal, it’s happening every match.It happened to me in the French Open, to Novak at the finals at the French Open. You know, I think in Hamburg against Krajinovic he was complaining, against me in Cincinnati was ridiculous, and now here again. I think players are catching up on that.”
He then added: “I’m not going to talk bad about anybody anymore, because I have been talked bad about for a very long time and it’s not a great feeling. I don’t want to do that,” he said.
“I think there needs to be some adjustments in some rules by the ATP. But it does get frustrating for you if you just won a set and then somebody walks off for 10-plus minutes or whatever.
“I don’t want to be negative anymore, and I have said everything I said. I said it in my first-round press conference. I don’t know what else to add.”
But Tsitsipas later hit back at Zverev, and slammed his accusations of receiving coaching in Cincinnati as “ridiculous”, saying the comments were a bigger reflection of Zverev than of himself.
“Look, I’m not pretending that everyone loves me. I don’t want to be – my intentions are not to be loved by anyone,” he said.
While talk has been dominated by Tsitsipas’ lengthy toilet breaks, fans watching the US Open have also witnessed some thriling tennis.
None more so than the displays of Raducanu, the British teen sensation who had to qualify for Flushing Meadows before now reaching the final four of the women’s draw.
The 18-year-old, who will become Britain’s No 1 ranked player on Monday, will take on Maria Sakkari in the semi-final on Friday.
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