Stefanos Tsitsipas was sent into a deep, quiet rage by the US Open crowd.
A 20-year-old from Greece, Tsitsipas was to be the feature attraction of the tournament’s day 2 as he reached the second round after dispatching Jack Sock 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
But the crowd quickly turned on him in the manner of Sacha Baron Cohen’s gay barkeep in Borat, not appreciating Tsitsipas’s repeated use of the toilet at the US Open, notably in the 10th game of the second set and again in the ninth game of the third. He explained to The Guardian that he is having problems learning English to suit his profession as a professional tennis player and is having a hard time keeping order in a men’s locker room that is small and friendly.
“Because of the noise you can hear everything,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m playing here, we have a lot of players around there. Some guys, if they have a good flush, you’re laughing and stuff.”
Tsitsipas proceeded to abandon a two-game lead in the eighth game to stop every time he had the chance to take a bathroom break. The boos began in the 10th game when Tsitsipas hit a backhand to 15-40 on Sock’s serve and secured victory in the next game, then grew worse when he stopped serving on five set points in the next game. The last point of the match, with his shot to Sock’s left on break point, lasted 11 minutes and 27 seconds — one minute more than Djokovic’s second set with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Wednesday.
Tsitsipas was booed at every changeover and then when he sat down, setting off a swarm of people around him who had apparently listened to his team talking in English but couldn’t understand him. They then started taking to their feet and waving their arms in anger, yelling angrily and waving their arms to show disapproval.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Tsitsipas told The Guardian. “Then I heard them booing. Everybody, to be honest, was cheering me, so I’m like, I don’t know what the booing is about. Maybe because I took too long on the court. I’m working on my English. I can’t understand much at all. I’m trying my best. “I understand that they’re cheering me and giving me applause for the fights I made in the games, that’s my life. When they boo, that’s different. When I have to poop after play, it’s hard. I don’t know what it means. That’s not good, for sure.”
When the officials finally finally spoke to him, Tsitsipas’s response was instantly characterised as abrupt.
“I wasn’t expecting that. I think that’s wrong,” he said. “I think it’s not good. So I said OK, and then we go on. The thing is, I really want them to understand that I was trying my best to get out of this match. The whole time I was on the court, it was the sound. I don’t know, I’m angry, too. So I’m just going to take it.”
“What’s happening, this is a new experience for me. I feel good, but I’m angry at the same time because they are not understanding,” he added. “And I had the opportunity to win the match, and they don’t understand, you know, in English. So I was throwing stuff in my mouth. I’m talking about friends. I love them, but I’m talking about tennis. I don’t understand.”
Tsitsipas has reached the Wimbledon junior final twice, in the 2015 tournament and again last year, and turned professional in March. He will hope that if he can play better on next Thursday’s third day, he can expect more support than he got at the US Open.