TOKYO: A family legacy. A Greek tradition. An individual breakthrough.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is attempting to match his grandfather by winning a gold medal at the Olympics.
After being pushed to three sets in his opening match at the Tokyo Games, the fourth-ranked Tsitsipas stepped up his play in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Frances Tiafoe to reach the last 16 on Tuesday.
It was a measure for revenge for Tsitsipas, who was beaten in straight sets by the 54th-ranked American in the first round of Wimbledon a month ago.
It was also the first match of the Olympic tennis tournament held indoors. With rain falling outside, organizers closed the roof over the Ariake Coliseum.
Tsitsipas’ grandfather, Sergei Salnikov, was part of the Soviet Union soccer team that won gold at the 1956 Melbourne Games. His mother is Russian and is father is Greek, although Grandpa Sergei also had Greek roots.
Tsitsipas has talked often this week about being inspired by Greece’s role in Olympic history — from ancient times to hosting the first Games of the modern era in 1896; not to mention the 2004 Games in Tsitsipas’ hometown of Athens, when he was just learning to play as a 6-year-old.
Tsitipas, who finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at this year’s French Open in his first Grand Slam final, is also entered in the Olympic mixed doubles competition with Greek teammate Maria Sakkari.
Sakkari was playing fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina later in singles.
Tsitsipas took control from the start, breaking Tiafoe’s serve at the first opportunity to take a 2-0 lead in the opening set then another break midway through the second.
The indoor setting provided perfect serving conditions and Tsitsipas hit nine aces to Tiafoe’s three.
With his long hair held together with a blue ponytail holder to match his shirt in the blue-and-white colors of the Greek flag, Tsitsipas also compiled 28 winners to the Tiafoe’s 13.
Tsitsipas will next face either 14th-seeded Ugo Humbert of France or Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia for a spot in the quarterfinals. One more victory after that and he’ll be in the medal rounds.
While spectators are barred from most of the Tokyo Games, Tsitsipas had some vocal support from Greek staff members in the stands, who also draped a large Greek flag over a barrier behind one end of the court.
Tiafoe was still to play again with partner Rajeev Ram in the second round of the doubles tournament against the Croatian pair of Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig.
On Center Court, home favorite Naomi Osaka of Japan was playing 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova for a spot in the quarterfinals.