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Stefanos Tsitsipas, from Greek god to Haitian zombie

Stefanos Tsitsipas durante la derrota ante Carlos Alcaraz en Roland Garros 2024
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PARIS – Stefanos Tsitsipas probably doesn’t know who Ronald Agenor was, the greatest Haitian tennis player in history, a talent from the 1980s who rose to No. 22 in the world. But the Greek is well informed about what ‘voodoo’ is, although reducing it only to his match against Carlos Alcaraz is, perhaps, more voluntarism than anything else.

To the Greek tragedy that Tsitsipas is every now and then, we can now add his idea that on Tuesday night he was a victim of the ‘voodoo’ of Carlos Alcaraz, who surely doesn’t know the story of Agenor either.

Ronald Agenor, great Haitian tennis player of the 1980s

Before analysing whether ‘voodoo’ explains Tsitsipas’ sixth loss in six matches to Alcaraz, it makes sense to define what “voodoo” is: in Haitian folklore there are zombies, which are reanimated corpses brought back to life by supernatural means, usually by a voodoo practitioner called a “bokor”.

Zombies’ derived from “voodoo” do not chase fresh flesh or spread disease by biting the healthy. No, Haitian ‘zombies’ are individuals under the control of the ‘bokor’, lacking free will and often used for labour or other purposes. They are obedient, almost robotic servants.

You have to read again what Tsitsipas said at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday after losing 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 to Alcaraz: “I think there was some voodoo on the court today. I wasn’t able to put the ball where I wanted to. It’s really unbelievable.”

Tsitsipas said a lot more than that, analysing in depth why he finds it so hard to play Alcaraz and praising the Spaniard’s speed and quality of shots. But the idea that in the middle of spring in the Bois de Boulogne a ‘voodoo’ rite affected the tennis is astounding.

+Clay  "Dangerous disconnection" and excessive ambition working against Carlos Alcaraz

Alcaraz was thus Tsitsipas’ “bokor”.

Another ‘bokor’ of Tsitsipas may be his father, Apostolos, present as always in the stands and with whom his son, at 25, still fights in public as if he were 14.

Tsitsipas is the owner of one of the most beautiful strokes in tennis, the one-handed backhand, which he executes as very few are capable of doing. He has talent and is, moreover, a well-educated, well-read and sensitive young man, something not necessarily common on the tennis tour.

But time is passing, and it seems difficult for him to return to the third place in the ranking he reached in 2021. And to play another Grand Slam final after those lost at Roland Garros 2021 and Australia 2023?

The protagonists today are a handful of years younger than him, with Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner leading the way. Tsitsipas is still young, of course, but his tennis needs a major shake-up, a rethink. And the problem is not with ‘bokor’ Alcaraz or ‘bokor’ Apostolos.

It all depends on him, but first he must convince himself that ‘voodoo’ does not exist in tennis. And that nobody can turn a Greek God into a Haitian ‘zombie’.

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