At just 20 years old, Stefanos Tsitsipas is arguably the best young tennis player in the world.
The world No 7 overcame Roger Federer for the second time this year on Friday, although he achieved it in less memorable fashion than his surprise victory over the Swiss great at the Australian Open in February.
After a foot problem ruled Federer out of their Italian Open quarter-final clash, Tsitsipas was awarded a walkover to the semi-final, where he will meet familiar foe Rafael Nadal.
In between breezing through his opening two matches at the tournament, Tsitsipas was shown playing keepy-uppy with Maria Sakkari.
The playful clip portrayed the pair fooling around and clearly enjoying each other’s company in front of the cameras.
They were also pictured together at a glamorous ceremony following the Hopman Cup in Australia at the start of the year, where they teamed up to beat Federer and Belinda Bencic in the mixed doubles.
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Who is Maria Sakkari?
Sakkari is a shining prospect in the women’s game, winning her first title by beating British no. 1 Johanna Konta in the final of this year’s Morocco Open.
Trained by Mark Petchey – formerly Andy Murray’s coach – Sakkari is ranked no. 39 by the WTA.
She is a clay specialist who idolises Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and she is also in semi-final action in Rome today, taking on world no. 4 Karolína Plíšková on Centre Court.
As young Greek tennis stars, Tsitsipas and Sakkari had plenty in common even before they both made it to the quarter-finals in Rome.
She explained: “My mum and his mother were tennis players. Our mums knew each other before they even got married, since they were 15 years old. So that’s a long time ago.
“I have known Stefanos since he was a kid but we played in a different category.
“Since he has started playing in the same tournaments as me, I know him pretty well now.”
Tsitsipas’ mother, Yulia, said she thought her son was still single following the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in February.
The rising star won the tournament in front of an enthralled Maria, who gushed: “Every time I talk about him I get goosebumps.
“The way he’s playing and the way he’s doing things, he is just an incredible player and an unbelievable talent. I think he was born to do that than to be that well as a tennis player.
“So I think also because he worked hard I’m sure he’s going to achieve many more great things. He is not just a player that he’s satisfied with a good result.
“He always wants more and always works hard. He is not just lying on the beach, enjoying his life just because he is in the top ten.”
An admiring Sakkari added: “You will see him spending hours on court in the gym taking care of his body.
“I really enjoyed our time at the Hopman Cup – especially on court, but also off the court as we could spend time together.
“We got to know each other a little bit more, and I think we will both remember the match against Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic really, really well.
“It was an unbelievable experience for us.”