The bottom half of the Australian Open is becoming more than interesting as two of the prospective title winners were put to the test before reaching the last eight and, should they be successful, meeting in the semi-final.
It was an epic match that’s all I can say, I gave everything out there on the court today. I’m proud of the way I fought and the way I remained consistent in the crucial moments. Stefanos Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev both survived marathon matches to keep their hopes of adding their name to the AO honours list and lifting the Norman Brooks Challenge Cup.
The fourth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a fourth-round battle with American Taylor Fritz, twice coming from a set behind to win 4-6 6-4 4-6 6-3 6-4 to advance as expected while the second seed, Medvedev’s game and mind was examined to the full by the world No.70, Maxime Cressy, the Melbourne Summer Set finalist before progressing into the last eight.
At just past midnight on Rod Laver Arena, the Greek ended Fritz’s resistance to set up a clash with Italian 11th seed Jannik Sinner when he will be seeking to reach the Melbourne semi-finals for the third time in his career.
Tsitsipas looked nervous at times but his greater familiarity with the big points and his wider experience in general eventually saw him through as he got the decisive break in the fifth set to go on and claim the victory.
Fritz, playing in his first Grand Slam fourth round, converted only two of his 15 break points and will rue a missed opportunity to become the first American male to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal for two years.
“It was an epic match that’s all I can say, I gave everything out there on the court today,” the 23-year-old Tsitsipas said during his on court interview. “I’m proud of the way I fought and the way I remained consistent in the crucial moments.
“I’m overwhelmed; the stadium was on fire! It’s too good to be true. I knew it was going to be physical, and I knew I had to be patient and in the end it paid off.”
Later Tsitsipas elaborated on his game plan to Eurosport: “It’s just concentrating on building geometrical patterns and the structure of the game; I’m focused on every single ball I hit.
“I’m trying to dictate play, see into the future if I do certain things, what’s the next move? When I play chess, I also get lost into the game and its a beautiful thing to be able to zone in so much and be in the present moment.
“It’s like time slows down.
“The fifth set was the moment of the match where things got really physical and I was ready to be in that physical hustle and put a lot of effort into every single point and make him work for every single point,” Tsitsipas said.
Jannik Sinner, the young Italian who dispatched Aussie Ale de Minaur 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4 is the next hurdle to clear if he is to meet, as hoped, Medvedev in the semis.
“With the right mindset and with the right attitude and with the right development throughout the tournament, my chances are pretty good,” Tsitsipas concluded.
Medvedev’s victory earlier in the day was clouded by his outburst as he complained at being scheduled on the Margaret Court Arena and not the main Rod Laver Arena and railed against the new bathroom break rules declaring them ‘stupid’ as they are now limited to three minutes with an additional two minutes if a change of clothes is required.
“The thing is that I know that in the 35 (degree) heat, when you’re playing in the sun, I’m going to want to change after two sets because you’re going to get wet,” he explained to reporters.
“I’m going to want to change my shorts, underneath my shorts, my socks, my shoes. You need like a good four minutes to do it, and my body wanted to pee after the first set!
“So I don’t see any logic in these rules, so hence I can call this ‘stupid’.”
And as far as the scheduling was concerned, he said: “I don’t know what I should do to play on centre courts in Slams.
“I won the last Grand Slam, I’m highest seed here. To play against Maxime would be easier on Rod Laver, more space.”
Whether that extra space would have helped him get past Cressy quicker than the three-hours and 30-minutes he required on this occasion, is difficult to tell but the American serve-and-volley game certainly frustrated the Russian.
“When you play on a smaller court it’s tougher to play somebody who does serve and volley than on a bigger court,” elaborated Medvedev, who was beaten by Novak Djokovic in last year’s Melbourne final and had played his first two matches on Laver.
“It’s like same in Wimbledon, I haven’t even played on Centre, because I don’t count the fifth set which I played after the rain, after being put on court two!”
Getting to the match itself, the Muscovite said: “I’ve played harder matches, but this was long. It wasn’t easy.
“The fourth set was crazy. Every time I had a break point, he would have second serves and hit the line. I couldn’t return them.”
Medvedev needed treatment on his right hip during the third set, with Cressy also later calling on the physio but Mevedev’s frustration really came to the fore in the fourth.
After shouting “this is so boring” before Cressy held for 2-1, the Russian complained at the changeover that Cressy was taking too long with his serves and claimed the 25-second shot clock was not being applied properly.
With Medvedev becoming increasingly rattled, Cressy maintained his composure and played smartly but finally he was broken in the 11th game of the fourth allowing the second seed to serve out and secure his quarter-final place.
In his final parting shot he said he was “quite mad today” and blamed his annoyance on court “was a consequence” of not being scheduled on Laver!
He should be scheduled for that court on Wednesday when he takes on Felix Auger Aliassime, the Canadian ninth seed, who also had to battle past a stubborn opponent, the revitalised former US Open champion from Croatia, Marin Cilic, 2-6 7-6(7) 6-2 7-6(4).
He joins Denis Shapovalov in the last eight to make it the first time two Canadian men have reached that stage at the Australian Open.
“It’s amazing. It puts my belief even higher, I lost three times to Marin in the past, this is my first win against him and in an important moment like this,” the young Canadian said.
“I told him at the end of the match he’s a champion, the way he handles himself and the way he plays and I knew he was going to come out with his best level and test me and make me earn my win.
“So I’m really relieved and happy to get through, especially the way I did it.”