Greek community fires up for Tsitsipas

As a high school student in 2006, Jimmy Zafiriou will never forget standing with thousands of others at Fed Square to watch Marcos Baghdatis take on Roger Federer in the Australian Open men’s final.

On Sunday night, he will be heading into town to watch Stefanos Tsitsipas try and claim his first grand slam title against nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in the 2023 final.

Jimmy Zafiriou and his mum Angela will be supporting Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s Australian Open men’s final.Credit:Scott McNaughton

“I will never forget Fed Square that night, it was electric,” Jimmy told The Age on Saturday as he and mum Angela purchased Greek paraphernalia for their 10-month-old niece/granddaughter Angie, who will join them and his sister Eleni to watch the match

“I missed the first couple of classes the next day because I slept in. It will be like that again in the city on Sunday night. Hopefully, Stefanos can win but if not, it will still be a wonderful memory like Baghdatis was.”

Tsitsipas has long been a favourite of fans in Melbourne, especially from the city’s Greek population which ranks among the largest in the world outside of Athens.

Tsitsipas told fans after his semi-final win that he was inspired to take his tennis seriously by watching Baghdatis, and Zafiriou said that just made the young star more relatable to locals.

“Whether it is Tsitsipas, Baghdatis or 2004 [when Greece won the European Football Championship], these events bring the community together and bring so much joy to everyone,” Zafiriou said.

“It also brings so much joy to the older generation like my mum. The majority of people are first-generation or second-generation Australian Greeks, and it is just crazy for a Greek to be doing so well at the grand slam we have here in Melbourne. It’s beautiful to share this with friends and family – words can’t describe it.”

Djokovic is the favourite to win on Sunday night but if Tsitsipas causes the upset, Zafiriou expects a big night will follow.

“Forget about work on Monday,” he said with a laugh. “May as well give everyone RDOs as all along here will be packed.”

Queensland resident Perry Criticos came to Melbourne for the Australian Open and will be cheering on Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday.Credit:Scott McNaughton

Tsitsipas has also drawn in fans from interstate and overseas including Perry Criticos, who travelled from Queensland to watch the last few days of the Open.

Criticos, who has Greek heritage, was at the semi-finals and plans to be at the final as well before heading home.

“I’m a tennis fan in general, and it’s great to see Tsitsipas in the final,” Criticos said.

“He has built his career really well, he isn’t one of those players who made the top 10 and then fell out, he has steadily built and made the final at Roland Garros in 2019 against Djokovic.

“I think he is pretty close, if he was playing anyone else except Djokovic then I would be pretty confident.

“Greece hasn’t got that history in tennis, and we’ve looked on while other countries like Italy and Serbia have done well. There is a lot of pride for the community here and all the Greeks around the world.

“It will be quite a big party on Sunday – it will be crazy.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas has loyal supporters in Melbourne. Credit:Eddie Jim

Djokovic said after his semi-final that he expected both players would have big followings on Sunday night with Melbourne’s Serbian community once again offering their champion great support.

“I’m really excited and privileged to be in that final against Tsitsipas,” Djokovic said.

“The Serbian and Greek communities are big, for sure. The Serbs and Greeks historically get along very well. I just don’t think there’s going to be any conflict on and off the court in terms of the crowd. On the contrary, I’m confident that people will support their respective players in a respectful way, and let’s see what happens.”

Most Viewed in Sport

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article