Melbourne | Tsitsipas overcomes hiccup to reach final

It was his fourth time in the semi-final of the Australian Open and for the first time, he overcame a major mental hurdle to reach the final of the ‘Happy Slam’ which looked possible when he dropped the third set against Karen Khachanov.

I’m extremely happy that I’m in the final now and let’s see what happens, Stefanos Tsitsipas

The Greek, seeded third for the event, finally dispatched the Russian 18th seed, 7-6(2) 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 in a gritty performance under the hot sun on Rod Laver Arena to set up a final against either Novak Djokovic, the nine time champion, or the fast rising American , the unseeded Tommy Paul.

“I dreamed as a kid to maybe one day get to play in this court against the best players in the world,” said Tsitsipas following his victory.

“So I’m happy with the fight I put out there today. I feel blessed, blessed that I’m able to play tennis at this level. I’ve been wanting for many years now to put Greek tennis on the map.

“I’m extremely happy that I’m in the final now and let’s see what happens,” he added.

If, as expected, he faces Djokovic in the final, he will not only be playing for the first major title of his career, and, whichever one of them lifted the trophy, that prson would also become world No.1.

Tsitsipas has always enjoyed Melbourne after bursting on the scene at the 2019 event as a 20-year-old when he dethroned defending champion Roger Federer in the last 16.

He went on to reach the semi-finals that year and again in 2021 and 2022 — falling one match short on each occasion — to highlight the consistency that has made him a regular in the world’s top 10 for nearly four years.

Stefanos Tsitsipas nd Karen Khachanov embrace following their semi-final encounter

Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

But a Grand Slam crown has been elusive, with his runner-up showing at Roland Garros in 2021 his best result so far, falling to Djokovic in five sets after holding a 2-0 lead.

Tsitsipas came into the Khachanov clash brimming with confidence, further fuelled by enjoying a 5-0 record over the Russian.

The third seed has been a man on a mission all fortnight, troubled only by Jannik Sinner in the fourth round and he looked set to cruise into the final as he stepped up to serve for a straight-sets victory.

Having broken to lead 5-3 in the opener, Tsitsipas played a poor game to drop serve and was then briefly in trouble at 5-5 after double-faulting when a second time violation resulted in him forfeiting a first serve.

He recovered to hold, though, and played a flawless tie-break to move in front.

Tsitsipas was the better player in the second set breaking in the penultimate game and appeared poised for victory serving for the match at 5-4 in the third.

But then Khachanov rallied, breaking back and producing two huge forehand winners when Tsitsipas moved 6-4 ahead in the tie-break.

The third seed appeared rattled and drove a forehand long to hand the set to Khachanov, but he regrouped quickly with a break at the start of the fourth and this time held onto it to become, at 24, the youngest man to reach the final since Djokovic in 2011 when the Serbian was 23 years of age.

What has been noted during the past 12 days is the lack of tantrums or clashes with his father which have in the past contributed to his lack of focus.

This has been attributed to his coach, the former Wimbledon finalist, Mark Philippoussis, who was engaged last year after The Championships and, when asked what he had brought to the team, Tsitsipas replied: “A sense of humour!”

Before the semi-final he had said: “The reason Mark is part of the team is because the dynamic has showed that it’s good.

“There hasn’t been any friction. It’s been going well. We get along well, all of us. We understand each other.

“There’s never misunderstandings or things that lead to conflict. I’m enjoying this.

“I’ve been enjoying this even in 2022. He makes for a good guy to have next to my father that can advise him, that can help him, can help me.

“Hopefully I can help him as well through experience, vice versa.”

It would seem that the Aussie, nicknamed the Scud after his powerful serve, has been able to defuse some of the temperamental behaviour witnessed in the past from Dad Apostolos.

Mark Philippoussis looks on in the players box alongside Apostolos Tsitsipas

Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)



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