World no. 4 tennis player, Stefanos Tsitsipas, is once again in Melbourne for the Australian Open 2022.

While this year’s tournament was overshadowed, before it even started, by the Novak Djokovic saga, the Greek tennis star says he’d rather focus on the actual sport* and hopes to perform to the best of his ability.

Stefanos has opted to continue collaborating with Stalactites for the “Tsitsipas Souvlaki”**, with 100% of sales going to Beyond Blue.

Stefanos Tsitsipas with the souvlaki named after him at the Stalactites food outlet on Grand Slam Oval at Melbourne Park in Melbourne on Friday, January 14, 2022. Photo: Fiona Hamilton/TENNIS AUSTRALIA

READ MORE: Souvlaki to be named in honour of Tsitsipas’ Australian Open success

We caught up with Stefanos at Melbourne Park, where he spoke about the importance of talking more openly about mental health issues, his relief for being in perfect shape after an elbow surgery, and how much proud he feels for playing tennis for Greeks of Australia.

All proceeds from the “Tsitsipas Souvlaki” will be donated to Beyond Blue, an organisation whose mission is to help people with mental health issues. Do you think that, even today, the discussion around such issues is a kind of taboo?

I do not think so. It’s something that has affected a lot of people and I think that we have reached a point where it is perfectly normal to be able to talk openly about these issues. It’s something far more important than most people think. For example, Naomi Osaka has spoken openly about this. Too many athletes at a high level have suffered from mental health issues. Proceeds from the sale of the souvlaki will be donated to Beyond Blue by Stalactites. Likewise, I will also be donating to Beyond Blue, so both Stalactites and I are on the same page regarding the donation of the proceeds. I personally do everything I can to help all those who have problems with their mental health. I am very proud to be part of such an important family, like the Stalactites.

2021 was a very successful year for you, with special moments including your win against Nadal here at the Australian Open, your victory in Monte Carlo, and your participation in the Roland Garros final. But you also had an elbow surgery recently. Do you feel better now? Do you think you will win your first grand slam this year?

The fact that I can play without feeling pain is an advantage. It’s something that has been worrying me for the last few months. It was very difficult for my mental health to play and feel pain all the time, something that somehow stopped me from reaching 100% of my potential. I’ve done everything I can to get back to that point of reaching my full potential. Having found the right doctor to help me with my injury makes me feel lucky. The fact that I am healthy, in Australia and that I can play in Melbourne is very important to me. It’s something I did not personally expect to be able to do after surgery.

So do you think that you are, perhaps, your biggest opponent?
I am. Right now, yes.

What is your message to the Greeks of Australia?
I want them to support me this year too, as they do every year. Personally, I will try to do my best to make them proud. They have shown great devotion and love in recent years here in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth. I’m proud of being able to put Greece on the tennis map, especially here in Australia, of motivating Greeks of all ages to take up the sport, but also of being able to represent Greece’s tennis in a grand slam like that of Australia.

*During a press conference a few hours before speaking to Neos Kosmos, Stefanos Tsitsipas refused to comment when asked about Novak Djokovic. “I’m here to talk about tennis, not Novak Djokovic,” the 23-year-old said.

**The “Tsitsipas Souvlaki” will be available at the Stalactites restaurant throughout the Australian Open (January 17-30). Stefanos Tsitsipas is competing on Tuesday 18 January for his first match, facing world number 86, Swede Mikael Ymer.