Team Greece, led by World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, celebrated New Year’s Eve on Tuesday with its biggest and most loyal Brisbane fans ahead of the ATP Cup.
Greece, which kicks off the inaugural 24-team competition at 10 a.m. on Friday against Canada, visited Nostimo, a Greek restaurant and bar at The Greek Club, which is the centre of Greek life in Brisbane. The club includes the city’s Greek community centre and is next door to the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George.
Tsitsipas, along with teammates Michail Pervolarakis, Markos Kalovelonis, brother Petros Tsitsipas, Alexandros Skorilas and captain/father Apostolos Tsitsipas, mingled with future ATP Cup attendees, sipped a self-inspired martini and looked ahead to 2020. Greece is in Group F with Canada, Germany and Australia.
“We have started very well. We have been putting ourselves to work on the court with the rest of the team. Our chemistry seems to work really well,” Stefanos Tsitsipas said. “I am really proud to represent Greece in this competition for the very first time. We just met the locals from Greece that live here in Brisbane. For us, it is something of huge importance to have people that we really feel connected with and they are going to come and support us. I think that is what is going to make this event so special.”
Greeks are passionate sporting fans and have large communities throughout Australia, as Tsitsipas felt last year during his maiden Grand Slam semi-final run at the Australian Open in Melbourne. It’s an advantage the team hopes to have at full effect in Brisbane.
“With Greeks, [passion and energy] is in the culture. We feel very connected to one another. It is almost like a family. They put a lot of energy in when they are out on the court chanting and giving their best for us. It just feels good to be Greek. There are so many benefits that I can take from that,” Tsitsipas said.
Kalovelonis added: “The fans are passionate. I hope they will support. I think they will support, because they are always coming to Australia to support the Greek players.”
The team certainly felt plenty of love at Nostimo. Kostas Manekas, the restaurant manager, created a martini to honour Tsitsipas’ 2019 season, which saw him win three titles, including the Nitto ATP Finals at The O2 in London, and finish at a year-end ATP Ranking of No. 6.
“We wanted to celebrate with you,” Manekas said. “We came up with a recipe that we hope represents you as an individual.”
The drink features ouzo, a popular liquor in Greece; an olive branch, to represent victory; vodka, because of Tsitsipas’ mother’s Russian heritage; and limoncello, which gives the drink a yellow tint.
“Well thought, well thought,” Tsitsipas said when he learned of the vodka inclusion.
As Manekas’ creativity shows, the Greek community stands ready to do everything they can to support their country in Brisbane.
“Opportunities like this don’t necessarily come around all that often, and the opportunity here with the ATP Cup is something that the whole of the youth of Greek Australians here in Brisbane are going to absolutely love. We’ll be coming in hordes,” said Laki Keramidas, vice president of the Greek Orthodox Youth Association in Brisbane. “You’ll be able to hear us in the crowd, that’s for sure.”
Greece qualified for the ATP Cup because of Tsitsipas’ ranking, and he, along with his father, knows that Greece’s fate in Brisbane will be significantly aided if the 21-year-old can get off to a good start in their matches.
But that’s not to say everything is riding on Tsitsipas. With some of the most passionate fans in the world and the benefit of youth on their team – their oldest player is 25 – Greece is ready to show the world how they can play.
“Stef is going to play an important role to raise the level. It is the team spirit that counts at the end, and I think obviously that is an important thing,” Apostolos Tsitsipas said. “[The Greek fans] are going to be our extra support all these days… I think it is going to be important to be next to their players.”