In what could go down as the match of the Australian Open, but if not, it should certainly be considered high amongst the best of the tournament to date as Stefanos Tsitsipas recovered from two sets down to end Rafa Nadal’s hopes of winning his second AO title and pull ahead of Roger Federer with whom he shares 20 Grand Slam titles.
“I started very nervously, I don’t know what happened after the third set, I flew like a little bird. Everything worked. Stefanos Tsitsipas
In what proved an outstanding battle between two players who competed at the top of their game throughout the contest all the while showing a burning intensity. Neither of them was prepared to give way and it wasn’t until the final minutes that the outcome became evident.
Despite falling two set behind, Tsitsipas never lost his determination to turn the quarter-final slowly on its head and go on to make the last four 3-6 2-6 7-6(4) 6-4 7-5.
While Nadal looked set to continue his run into the final. Tsitsipas slowly but surely increased the pressure on the second seed by not only matching him in all departments, but also out-serving him.
The pendulum swung in the third set tie-break when Nadal committed three uncharacteristic errors at the start. Tsitsipas didn’t need any more encouragement to go on and claim the first set Nadal dropped during the tournament.
Nadal, who came into the match holding a 6-1 head-to-head record over the Greek, was unable to halt his younger opponent’s surge in confidence which increased when he actually levelled the match a two-sets apiece.
In the fifth Tsitsipas self-assurance was clear to see, though Nadal remained dangerous, despite starting to show signs of fatigue and frustration when he missed one of his trademark shots.
In the end the match hinged on the 11th and 12th game. Tsitsipas broke Nadal to love and then held his nerve to serve out whilst being heavily pressed by Nadal who was unable to convert a breakpoint after saving two match points
Tsitsipas then converted the third with a strong backhand down the line after four hours and five-minutes of tense play.
With that he booked a semi-final slot against Daniil Medvedev who had earlier defeated his Russian compatriot Andrey Rublev in straight sets.
“I started very nervously, I don’t know what happened after the third set, I flew like a little bird. Everything worked.
“The emotions are indescribable. I focused on staying calm and holding my nerves. I would also give part of my victory by being calm with my mood. I have been working on trying to keep emotions to myself.”
There is no denying that he had benefitted from being given a walkover by Matteo Berrettini in the previous round and surviving a five setter against Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round.
On the other side Nadal was sadened by his loss after leading by two sets to love and then making those fateful errors in the third set tie-break.
“Oh, of course sad”, Nadal said following his defeat. “I lost a match in quarter-finals of an event that means a lot to me.
“Australian Open is one of my favourite events, without a doubt. So I missed an opportunity to be in that semi-finals again. And that’s it.
“Well done for him. He played better than me probably in important moments. Was an equal match.
“I tried my best in every single moment. With the right attitude. No complaining at all in no one moment, even in the tougher moments.
“Just trying to, I think I stayed positive all the time during the match, fighting. And was not enough. Sometimes it’s enough. Today was not enough.
“And that’s it. Just another story in my tennis career. That’s it, another match I lost here in Australia with important advantage, and just accept and keep going. That’s the life.”