Stefanos Tsitsipas surged into the Australian Open semi-finals after a straight-sets win over Jiri Lehecka and in some ways, was lucky to do so and not be disqualified like Novak Djokovic was at the US Open!
It felt different this time from any other match [this week], but the most important thing is that at the end I found a solution, It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult ones that I had so far in the competition. Stefanos Tsitsipas
The Greek, seeded third for the Australian Open, narrowly avoided being thrown out of the first grand slam of the season after he smashed a ball in frustration during the third set and just missed hitting a ball-kid.
Had he done so, he would have received his marching orders like the Serbian who accidently hit a line person back in 2020 with a ball he struck in frustration.
Tsitsipas was seemingly in control when the incident occurred whilst the Czech, Jiri Lehecka, was serving at 3-4 down and spotted by Jim Courier whilst commentating for Channel 9.
“I’m not sure if we’re gonna get a replay of it — Tsitsipas just got really lucky,” he said. “He swings in anger, and it nearly hits the ball kid!”
Fortunately for the world No.4, it was a miss and he went on to claim, after two hours and 17-minutes a place in the last four having defeated the 21-year-old Lehecka 6-3 7-6(2) 6-4 for what will be his third appearance in the Melbourne semi-finals in as many years.
“It felt different this time from any other match [this week], but the most important thing is that at the end I found a solution,” said Tsitsipas in his on-court interview. “It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult ones that I had so far in the competition.
“I think Jiri had a very good tournament. He is someone who started playing well recently and I wish him the best in the future, because he is a great player.”
Lehecka, ranked 71,had told Tsitsipas that he was going to avenge his semi-final defeat to the Greek at last year’s Rotterdam.
But the 21-year-old, who beat 11th seed Cameron Norrie and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the last eight, found himself under pressure from the opening moments of their quarter-final facing five break points.
Lehecka lost that game and found himself immediately trailing 3-0 and with Tsitsipas serving strongly he was one set down after 36-minutes.
But he struck back in the second to apply pressure on the Greek, but with both payers now playing at their best level until the tie-break where Tsitispas quickly gained control and never relinquished dropping just two points.
In a close third set, Tsitsipas’s second double fault of the night handed Lehecka three break points in game seven. But he saved them all to hold, pumping the air in celebration.
With the bit between his teeth, the Greek star applied more pressure as Lehecka served to stay in the contest and a cross-court backhand earned him a match point, which he converted.
Earlier, Karen Khachanov reached his second consecutive grand slam semi-final after Sebastian Korda retired with a wrist injury when trailing 7-6(5) 6-3 3-0.
The 22-year-old American has been one of the stories of the tournament, defeating Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz to reach his first grand slam quarter-final 25 years after his father Petr lifted the trophy.
But he took a medical timeout after five games of the second set to have his wrist taped and called it quits after losing the next seven games.
Korda said of the injury: “I had it a little bit in Adelaide a couple weeks ago but then it went away. During the matches, it was completely fine. Then, just one kind of miss-hit return and it started to bother me a lot after that.
“Some forehands, I couldn’t even hold the racket. Volleying was almost impossible for me. So it was a little tough.”
The second semi-final line up will be settled on Wednesday when Novak Djokovic plays Russia’s Andrei Rublev and Ben Shelton takes on his American compatriot Tommy Paul.