By Karolos Grohmann
(Reuters) – The world's number six Stefanos Tsitsipas has rung in the rankings this year and with two titles bagged in 2019, including his first on clay, the carefree young Greek is a force to be reckoned with on the French counter.
With a powerful one-handed backhand, an extremely versatile game and a willingness to match, the 20-year-old with surfer-boy blonde curls and looks has been a breath of freshly-needed fresh air for the past two years.
The Athenian has quickly established itself with German Alexander Zverev as one of the men most likely to succeed as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the very top of the game.
Zverev, 22 and Austrian Dominic Thiem, 25, has been established in the top 10 for a long time, but despite their strong tour presence, they have not yet won a Grand Slam.
This has raised questions about their ability to deliver at the greatest tennis stage and level of their drive to finally beat 30 somethings Federer, Nadal and Djokovic out of their perch.
With a semi-final appearance in Australia this year, Tsitsipas has achieved more than his rival Zverev, who has never passed the last eight of a Grand Slam.
And twice French Open runner-up Alex Corretja believes that Greek is the most likely effort to shake it up in Paris.
Speaking exclusively to Reuters, Eurosport's ignorant Corretja said: "Anyone who wants to beat him must fight so much because he's physically strong, he knows how to play on clay, he mixes it well.
"Perhaps this year it is still a little early to say that he will win the tournament but the semi-finals? Yes. He is in very good shape, but this is the first time he comes to a Grand Slam with people who think he can go a long way. Let's see how he treats it. "
Tsitsipas enjoyed a breakthrough season last year to jump from 91 to 15 in the rankings and is currently on a high sixth career.
He has won victories over Federer and Nadal in 2019, including beating the Spaniard on his favorite doctrine in Madrid, while also winning the titles of the Marseille hard courts and Estoril's laughs.
He also reached his first claycourt ATP Masters 1000 final in Madrid, which fell to Djokovic.
"I'm happy with my results since Estoril, I had many games on clay. I think it's important to get into a tournament like the French open," Tsitsipas said.
With the best warming he could have hoped for the French opening, Tsitsipas has the right to dream big.
"I think I learned a lot these three weeks," he said. "It's good to get into a Grand Slam by knowing what you did well, what you did wrong, and trying to concentrate on these things to avoid the same mistakes in the big events."
(Reporting of Karolos Grohmann; Further reporting by Martyn Herman, editing of Ed Osmond)