Stefanos Tsitsipas blames sleep aid melatonin after quarterfinal dismantling by Carlos Alcaraz

Beating Carlos Alcaraz when you’re fully awake is hard enough, but a mistake by Stefanos Tsitsipas apparently had the Greek sleepwalking in a French Open quarterfinal Tuesday.

Tsitsipas fell 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(5) to the tournament’s top seed, and the match was about as lopsided as the score suggests. Alcaraz needed only two hours and 11 minutes to dispatch the No. 5 player in the world, breaking him six times and winning 57 of 86 points in the first two sets.

After the match, which began around 8:30 p.m. local time, Tsitsipas revealed an unusual reason for his slow start. He was sleepy, due to a pre-match nap and the sleep aid melatonin.

From the Associated Press:

“One thing that I’m going to try to avoid in the future is (having) melatonin pills and naps before matches,” Tsitsipas said, “because it clearly doesn’t seem to be working.”

“Schedule has been a little bit difficult the last few days. I had some late-night sessions. Not super late, but late enough for me to kind of have my sleep schedule ruined, in a way,” Tsitsipas said. “You know, sleep is a very vital, important thing, and recovery is the most important thing when competing and playing big Slams like this.”

This apparently isn’t the first time using melatonin has backfired for Tsitsipas, as he reportedly took it before facing Novak Djokovic before a 2019 match at an indoor tournament in Paris. The result was a 6-1, 6-2 loss.

Alcaraz will face Djokovic in the semifinals on Friday.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in humans that helps regulate their sleep cycle. Supplements containing melatonin have become increasingly popular over the past few years, but it’s worth noting they are not a magical “go to sleep” pill.

The New York Times wrote last year that doctors often use it to help patients with circadian rhythm disorders regulate their sleep-wake cycles and that it often doesn’t address the actual reason behind a person’s insomnia, which could be anxiety, sleep apnea or any number of conditions.

And if you take it during the day to help you nap, it probably won’t be as helpful as you expect:

“The impact it has on our sleep depends on the time of day that you take it,” said Dr. Martin, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “If you took a sleeping pill in the middle of the day, it would make you feel sleepy. If you took melatonin in the middle of the day, it doesn’t really have that effect.”

We don’t know how exactly Tsitsipas was using melatonin, but the backfire potential for taking the drug hours before a night match seems high.

Fortunately, it at least seems like a lesson learned for Tsitsipas, who reached the final at Roland Garros in 2021 and made his second career Grand Slam final at the Australian Open earlier this year. He lost to Djokovic in both matches.

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