Tennis

Syracuse’s Maria Tritou becomes comfortable with leaving to advance tennis career

Courtesy of SU Athletics

Tritou, like Syracuse, has struggled through the first third of the season. The sophomore is 1-7 in her singles matches.

Maria Tritou’s smile is biggest when talking about her home island of Rhodes, Greece. She reminisces about her childhood, playing tennis and enjoying the Mediterranean shores. The more she talks, the wider the grin.

“It’s always sunny,” Tritou said. “It’s just a beautiful island.”

Then, at 15, Tritou did what so many other amateurs in tennis have done: leave.

She forewent the comfort of home in search of higher levels of coaching and play. Amsterdam became her tennis haven. Like several of her teammates at SU (3-7, 1-3 Atlantic Coast), Tritou springboarded the higher level of tennis into college. Though she has struggled this season like Syracuse as a whole, going 1-7 in singles with her lone win coming in a third-set tiebreak, her teammates appreciate her as a good teammate.

At the Laurense Tennis Academy, she played with some of the best players from across Europe and even received the occasional pep talk from Sven Groeneveld, Maria Sharapova’s personal coach.

“He would say one thing to you, and you would improve your game immediately,” Tritou said. “It was crazy.”

Tritou started her tennis career late, partly because she didn’t start playing until she was about 9 years old, much later than all of her friends, and because the island presented limited competition. In the early stages of her career, her opponents were the same girls from Rhodes she had played against for years.

But once she picked up the racket, she didn’t put it down. Soon, she grew into her lanky 6-foot frame and had to search for better competition elsewhere from the island. European tournaments came next and required multiple flights. Eventually, the toll of cost and travel became too much.

If Tritou wanted to keep playing, she needed to be closer to the central European cities where she regularly played. Not seven years after first picking up a racket, tennis brought her to Amsterdam while her father, Konstantinos Tritos, and mother, Tetyana Kirsanova, stayed behind in Rhodes.

“I was 15,” Tritou said. “I still needed my parents, my mom — you know? I was all alone there.”

She struggled to adjust living away from the people who raised her, but with major cities like London, Paris and Berlin only a train ride away, she competed in more tournaments than ever before. Increased exposure brought more attention from colleges in the United States.

An outside recruiting agency first tipped off Syracuse head coach Younes Limam to Tritou. Eventually, after seeing enough live streams and YouTube clips of her, he offered her a scholarship. He had never even seen her play in person.

“Just watched her videos,” Limam said, “and talked to her former coaches and did our homework.”

After touring Syracuse, Tritou liked the campus and academics, but mostly, the chance to be on a team for the first time in her life. She had moved to advance her tennis career before, so joining the Orange seemed like the next step. So, again, she left.

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