Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 4 of the 2021 US Open.
Welcome to the Stefanos Tsitsipas show. It stinks. At least, that’s what some fans, and players, would have you believe.
Tsitsipas, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is the third-ranked player in the world. He’s one of the beaming lights representing the future of men’s tennis for the time when the current kings will have retired. He’s a great player, the actual greatest Greek player in history, and will continue getting better as time passes on.
Tsitsipas, it seems, has it all and should be a unanimous choice for one of the few ushering in men’s tennis to its next era. So why isn’t he?
The toilet problem
His first match at this year’s US Open offers a window into the reason. The 23-year-old won his match against Andy Murray by the final score of 2-6, 7-6(7), 3-6, 6-3 and 6-4 in a battle that lasted almost five hours. But it’s not so much losing the match that had his opponent fuming as much as it was the lengthy breaks—bathroom and otherwise—that Tsitsipas took during the match. Murray, he didn’t say explicitly, thought that his opponent was using those breaks to receive in-match coaching tips and tactics. (In case you’re keeping track at home, this is also what irked Alexander Zverev earlier in the summer, as well as plenty others at Roland-Garros, where the Greek made the final.)
In case you haven’t watched last night’s match, this is what happened. Tsitsipas left the court for a bathroom break before the start of the third set, then called a medical time-out before the fourth set and, for good measure, left the court once again for a bathroom break before the start of the fifth and decisive set.
Fact of the day. It takes Stefanos Tsitipas twice as long to go the bathroom as it takes Jeff Bazos to fly into space. Interesting. ? ?
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) August 31, 2021
As you might imagine, things got dicey from there…to the point that it’s become an entire item on “The Discourse” agenda. We’ve had pundits chime in (including our editor-in-chief). We’ve also seen players who aren’t competing give their thoughts on Twitter or television when they should probably have their sights set on bigger and better things. Some players were asked about it at press conferences, with some defending Tsitsipas and others piling on.
What can be done?
It’s become a thing, is what we’re getting at. And it’s probably going to keep being a thing until people either stop caring about it (maybe), stop discussing it entirely (LOL) or if Tsitsipas stops going to the bathroom (impossible).
Ultimately, this is all really, really silly. Because what the Greek is doing isn’t against the rules of tennis. Players are allowed a bathroom break after a set and players are prohibited from receiving in-match coaching of any kind. So unless and until authorities decide to either change the rules we currently have, or they find Tsitsipas guilty of doing something that’s actually against the rules, there is little to do here.
Just play better and win, I guess. Maybe take lengthy bathrooms as well? It seems to help some folks.
Day 4 preview
We’re closing today’s post by identifying the three matches we feel you should keep a close eye on. As always, you can see the full day 4 schedule right here.
Court 5: Fiona Ferro vs Iga Swiatek  (First match of the day)
Given all that she has accomplished already, it’s easy to forget just how young Iga Swiatek is at 20 years old. You can say that she’s still yet to break through fully, having made her name on a Roland-Garros title—but that would be looking at the trees and overlooking the forest. Criticize Swiatek all you want, but she’s already won a Grand Slam title.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Albert Ramos-Vinolas vs Alexander Zverev  (Second match of the day)
We’re picking this match for one reason and one reason only: while the whole world and their mother has been discussing and debating the bowel movements of young Tsitsipas, no one is discussing Alexander Zverev’s case. We’ll change that in a couple of days.
Court 17: Misaki Doi vs Jessica Pegula  (Second match of the day)
Talk about coming out of nowhere. Somehow, American Jessica Pegula crashed the 20202 French Open to make the quarterfinals in what’s by leaps and bounds her greatest career result. Was it just a fire in a pan? Who knows, but we’re there for the show.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG