Stefanos Tsitsipas’s breakout run continued at the Australian Open. The Greek backed up his big win over Roger Federer by stopping the 9-match win streak of Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(2) to reach his first (of many?) Grand Slam semifinal.
“I knew that win against Federer was important, played a huge role in my image, like who I am,” Tsitsipas said. “But I knew that the biggest challenge was today’s match, that I can prove myself once again.”
At just 20, he’s the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist since Novak Djokovic at the 2007 US Open.
“It all feels like a fairytale, almost,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m just living the dream, living what I’ve been working hard for.
“I feel a bit emotional but not too much because no, I worked real hard to get here. At the start of year I said my goal was semis of a grand slam. When answering this question I thought I was crazy. But no, it is real and it just happened.”
It didn’t look promising early for the rising star. After not getting broken all match against Federer, Bautista Agut broke immediately, but he later gave it back and played a poor game to get broken to drop the set.
The Spaniard settled down and took the second then appeared well in control leading 4-2 in the third when the tide turned again. Tsitsipas caught fire winning four straight games to go up two sets to one.
With the crowd on his side, Tsitsipas elevated on his serve and net play, and outplayed Bautista Agut in the breaker to become the first Greek man or woman to make a Slam semifinal.
After having played three five set matches to reach his first Slam quarterfinal, Bautista Agut served himself well, and credited Tsitsipas as the better player.
“I think it was a close match,” Bautista Agut said. “Tsitsipas was playing very good. I had my chances in the first set and in the third set. I lost both sets. Maybe was the key or the moment of the match to turn it around. After the break back, he got confidence, he played really good end on the both sets.
“I’m a little bit disappointed because I couldn’t confirm both sets, first and third.”
Next for Tsitsipas on Thursday night is Rafael Nadal who blitzed 21-year-old Frances Tiafoe 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.
Nadal broke early in each set and hit 13 aces with his new serve and was never really troubled by the young American.
Despite not having played an official event since the US Open, Nadal hasn’t dropped a set through five rounds, he’s supremely fresh and he’s gone a round further than he did a year ago when he retired to Marin Cilic.
“For me it’s very emotional to be back int he semifinals,” Nadal told the crowd after. “It means everything to me.”
Nadal will play his third youngster in Tsitsipas next.
“I said a couple of rounds ago that they can wait a little bit, but looks like they don’t want to wait,” Nadal said.
“He’s able to win against the best players in the world already,” Nadal said about the Greek. “He’s a great player, he has the chance to be the best for a very long time.”
Added Tsitsipas, “It’s going to be interesting. I feel all right with my game. I feel like I can do something good against him.”
On Wednesday, the quarterfinals conclude with Milos Raonic seeking a fourth straight win over Lucas Pouille, and a second Australian Open semifinal appearance.
Djokovic returns to take on Kei Nishikori. Djokovic leads the Japanese 15-2 having won 14 straight since Kei’s 2014 US Open semifinal stunner. And this time, Nishikori comes in after a grueling 5-set, 5-hour win Monday over Pablo Carreno Busta.
“He’s a fighter. He’s a very talented player. One of the quickest players on the tour,” Djokovic said of Nishikori.
“I have lots of respect for him. We did play here several times. We actually played in quarterfinals I think one year. You know, every year is different, so, you know, every match that you play against each other is different, so I expect him obviously to come out, to try something new.
“I have beaten him many times that we played against each other in last couple of years and that we played on different surfaces. It was a couple of very close matches. Yeah, I expect a tough one.”
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