The World Is Watching Him. He’s Watching the World.


Stefanos Tsitsipas has focused on his creative side as he has risen up the world rankings.

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas documents his travels on the tennis tour on video. “Why not have a hobby and travel with it?” he said.CreditCreditBen Solomon for The New York Times

Stefanos Tsitsipas’s climb up the tennis rankings over the past year — from 161st to 15th — could have been a blur. Fortunately for him, he has a high-definition record of almost all of it.

At the United States Open last year, Tsitsipas started experimenting with creating video diaries, a log of his travels in which he shares his delight at the various places and cultures he has encountered on the pro tennis tour. While some players rarely veer from a path between their hotel and the courts each week, Tsitsipas frequently struck out on his own with his camera, exploring as much as he could.

A year later, the results of his work — month after month of new cities and new experiences — are documented fastidiously on his YouTube channel, on which the 20-year-old Tsitsipas is the star, writer, director, cameraman, editor and graphics engineer.

“Tennis players, we’re traveling all year long, away from our home, and it’s not easy,” he said. “So we carry certain things with us on the tour which help us stay happy, stay motivated. Tennis is always going to be there. The traveling is always going to be there. So why not have a hobby and travel with it, and feel happy with it?”

For Tsitsipas, filmmaking has become an outlet in what can be a solitary existence for a tour player. It has allowed him to step outside his tennis life — often for hours at a time — and pour himself into a different kind of passion.

Making videos, he said, is “like a Plan B for me; if things don’t go well from the beginning of the tournament, I might film or make a video in the city. But if I keep winning, I’m trying to forget it as much as possible.”

He had no time to make videos in Toronto during his run to the final there, beating four top-10 players en route. After he lost early the next week in Cincinnati, he uploaded two.

Like his game, his videos have evolved during a busy year. After Tsitsipas won a Grand Slam match for the first time at Roland Garros this spring, his relatively straightforward videos took a turn. Tsitsipas began “Be A Rebel” with images of Paris and him discussing his plans to explore the city that day, then suddenly cut to a clip of the Apple founder Steve Jobs. He addressed the camera himself, imploring his viewers: “Life needs a person like you to change the world.”

What followed was a fast-moving montage of more motivational quotes from Tsitsipas alongside images of a diverse group of people: Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara, the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” winner John Carpenter, even his fellow tennis player Nick Kyrgios.

To keep up with his YouTube idols, including Casey Neistat and Peter McKinnon, Tsitsipas is constantly looking to improve at his craft. He searches, online and in stores around the world, for new gear to upgrade his range of photography and sound equipment, much of which, including a drone, he carries with him in a backpack whenever he goes out in a new city.

After winning his first match at the U.S. Open on Monday night, Tsitsipas sat down in the main interview room and immediately started fiddling with the microphone, taking off its foam cover to find out what type it was. He’s in the market for microphones, he said, and was curious what kind the tournament used.

Tsitsipas also expresses himself through still photography in an Instagram account under the pseudonym Steve the Hawk; the name is a nod to a creature that he thinks embodies his swift speed and perceptive eye.

Except for a clip of interviews with a few players at a party at a tournament in the Netherlands, other pros rarely appear on Tsitsipas’s videos, which normally only feature himself or his coach and father, Apostolos, or one of his brothers, Petros.

Asked if he thought rival players had ever watched his YouTube channel, Tsitsipas began to answer in the affirmative, but then realized he wasn’t sure. He admitted he had never spoken to another player about his videos, and “they haven’t talked about it.”

Tsitsipas’s earnest, wide-eyed wonderment stands apart from other players. When he encouraged people to “close your eyes and absorb” the soundscape of New York in a tweet last week, it was met with confusion from his peers.

“I know some people see these things that I do as something weird, writing all these tweets that make no sense,” he told a reporter earlier this week. “It is from a creator’s perspective.”

On the third episode of “A Greek Abroad,” the podcast that rounds out his current media offerings, Tsitsipas mentioned having been picked on and ostracized during his school years for being different.

“The children just didn’t accept it,” he said. “I was being bullied a lot, and I remember I had troubles. I was trying to stay as calm as possible when those fights would occur, but it was not always easy to keep a clear mental state. The kids were driving me crazy. They were getting into my mind.”

When he’s not on tour, Tsitsipas is based at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in the French Riviera. Patrick Mouratoglou, best known for coaching Serena Williams, said he had never encountered a player like Tsitsipas, who chose to spend so much time alone.

“He also has normal relationships, but he lives a lot with himself, doing his stuff, and in his world,” Mouratoglou said. “This channel is a lot about that. He loves to do it, and he spends so much time filming and editing, which I think is something cool because it’s creative.”

While other coaches might have urged a young pro to cultivate a more singular focus on tennis, Mouratoglou said he did not think Tsitsipas’s filmmaking was a detriment to his career.

“You could easily think ‘Oh, the guy is not focused on tennis; he’s a tourist,’” Mouratoglou said. “But all the players have their own way to move away from tennis, and that’s his way to move away from tennis.”

When Mouratoglou first heard of Tsitsipas, he was eager to find footage of Tsitsipas playing.

“You know where I saw him for the first time?” Mouratoglou said, grinning. “On YouTube.”

Source : NYtimes