An image of Greek tennis player Stefanos Tsitsipas has been named one of Time’s Top Photos of 2021 with the creative genius of its photographer Julian Finney compared to that of famed Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.
For Getty Images International sports photographer Julian Finney it is a match that he will never forget, with one of his images of Greek tennis player Tsitipas recently named one of Time’s Top Photos of 2021.
The second that Finney captured the now famed image using a 24-70mm lens, he knew that he “had something special”, he told ATP Tour, the global governing body of professional men’s tennis.
The perfectly timed image freezes in time Tsitsipas sliding into a backhand slice on Court Philippe Chatrier towards the end of his five-set loss against Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros final.
TIME magazine used the following caption to describe the image: “Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece plays a backhand in his match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during the Men’s Singles Final match of the French Open in Paris on June 13.”
The Greek is illuminated by a burst of light shining beaming down in him as if he were under a spotlight, a moment which Finney says “came out of nowhere”.
“The usual nice light us photographers love had gone from the court as the sun was beginning to go down behind the stadium. Without a fifth set this picture wouldn’t have been possible,” says Finney.
“I was aware of new pockets of light formed by the new centre court construction, but what occurred at this split moment was something I didn’t plan for. It’s one of those golden moments that comes and goes very quickly.
“What was so special was the low light beaming through a gangway in the stadium above whilst at the same time it was also reflecting off a window up a few rows behind me. Stefanos was also playing a low sliding backhand in the very limited spot of light. It all came together. It is the kind of lighting you’d expect from a studio set up.”
“When in that moment Stefanos played this particular shot low and sliding into this spot on the court, I couldn’t believe it paid off to shoot it loosely cropped,” says Finney incredulously. “The way the light is flaring through, the very certain spot he played the shot, the timing, his white top helped elevate the reflection of the light, [everything worked]. I knew as soon as I looked at the back of my camera I had a very special image.
“One friend mentioned it having a feel of a Caravaggio painting, quite the compliment! I also think the fact no one else got the same image, [which does not happen often] these days, is something to treasure.”
Represented by Getty Images, the portfolio of award-winning photographer Julian Finney includes photographs of some of the world’s top athletes including Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Cristiano Ronaldo and he counts amongst his clients the likes of Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Fred Perry, Sports Illustrated, Washington Post and New York Times.
Also recognised on the list of Time’s Top Photos of 2021 and featured on the magazine’s cover was that taken on August 8 of an elderly woman on the Greek island of Evia as a wildfire spawned by the country’s worst heatwave in three decades.
The shocking photograph by Konstantinos Tsakalidis for Bloomberg/ Getty Images captured the raw despair of Mrs Panagiota, as she is leaving her house about to be engulfed by flames behind her, holding one hand to her chest in grief and a small bag of belongings.
The now-famous photo made international headlines, touching hearts all over the world.