Tallon Griekspoor knows he faces a great challenge Monday at the BNP Paribas Open, where he will play top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the third round. But it is a test the Dutchman is excited for.
“I really do [like the challenge]. I enjoy those matches, I enjoy the big stadiums. I enjoy the moments of playing these guys,” Griekspoor told ATPTour.com. “I prefer to play on Court 1 rather than Court 7. It’s not always a good sign to play on Court 1, but I like the challenge of playing those guys. I feel like those are the matches that make you better.”
The 26-year-old has played plenty of top-tier opponents this season, from Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas to Andrey Rublev and Jannik Sinner. Last year at Wimbledon, he lost to Alcaraz in straight sets.
“Wasn’t my best match, I lost in three. I thought that on grass, if you want to beat the guy at some surface, it would have been grass in my eyes. But he played well there, I didn’t play too great,” Griekspoor said. “He’s one of the best players in the world, that’s for sure. He’s so young. He’s injured, he comes back straight away, he plays so well. So it’s going to be really tough, but at the end I really like the challenge of playing him. Why not?”
Griekspoor believes that the sheer quality of Alcaraz’s physical game is daunting, from his power and speed to his drop shot and ability to mix things up with tactics like serving and volleying.
“He has basically the whole package. I don’t know what he doesn’t have. He has everything,” Griekspoor said. “I think the physical part is unbelievable and I think mentally, for his age, he’s really far [ahead]. I cannot give you one weak point of his game. He showed it already for a whole year or two years already, showed the whole world why he’s one of the best players.
“He’s just a talent. I think it’s not even good to compare people with him because I think he’s just [at] another level. He’s one of those guys. Unbelievable player, that’s for sure.”
Griekspoor has been impressive himself this year. At a career-high No. 36 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, he won his first ATP Tour title in Pune and made the semi-finals in Rotterdam to contribute to a 13-4 record.
“I’m feeling good. Winning a lot of matches, winning my first title, making the third round of a Slam, really good week at home in Rotterdam,” Griekspoor said. “Those are things that help a lot [to] give you a good mood. It gives you confidence, playing well, winning matches that I need to win. Not much to complain [about].”
The Dutchman points to his work ethic as one of the biggest contributors to the success. Not only does he work hard, but he relishes doing so. However, that has not always been the case.
“I remember I had private lessons and I was asking my coach every five minutes ‘What is the time?’ I wanted to be done, I wanted to go home, to go and play on the PlayStation,” Griekspoor said. “At that point you are 14, 15, 16, whatever. You are so young. I didn’t really always enjoy the tennis at that time. You went to school, you had fun at school. I had to go to practice and all my friends were having fun together.
“I guess now it paid off, but I was not always the guy who enjoyed tennis the most when I was younger. Now I do enjoy it a lot, I can’t imagine life without it. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
There was not one particular moment when his mindset shifted. Gradually over time, he realised what was necessary.
“When I was young, I was a little bit of a spoiled kid. I had some talent, everybody said, ‘Okay, you have talent.’ But at some point you realise, ‘Okay, you have the talent, but you need to work hard,’” Griekspoor said. “Since then I have enjoyed the hard work. I enjoy the tough moments on court and I feel like those tough moments are giving so much more joy to the good moments.”
What is a sign of his dedication? Griekspoor admitted that the first day of each preseason he often throws up. Once his short holiday is off at the end of the year, it is right back to business. That has been clear in his 2023 performance.
“I really believe in hard work paying off in the end. If I look at myself [at the] end of last year, I was not winning a lot of matches, but I was not playing badly. I was playing alright, I just lost all of the close ones, three sets,” Griekspoor said. “This year I’ve won all of them. I feel like [much] hasn’t changed.
“I just feel like hard work is paying off. I’m just trying to keep working hard every day, pushing myself, the people around me are pushing me. I feel like this is probably the biggest [reason for my] success this year.”