In-form Tsitsipas staunch in defence

GREEK star Stefanos Tsitsipas is surging towards a second Grand Slam final, with the second favourite for the Australian Open men’s singles title en route to face the man that defeated him in a heartbreaking Roland Garros decider.

Back in 2021, Tsitsipas lead then world number one Novak Djokovic 7-6 6-2 in the first French Open in two years, only to fade away and go down in five sets. Almost two years on, he is in-line to right those wrongs, moving just two wins away from lifting the title aloft.

The Greek third seed is into a semi-final and is the highest ranked player remaining in the tournament. The world number four is a place higher than the fifth ranked Djokovic, and both combatants are on opposite sides of the draw. In his most recent clash, Tsitsipas took down Czech talent Jiri Lehecka in three tight sets, winning 6-3 7-6 6-4.

It was perhaps not the final score that stood out, but his defensive work that really caught the eye. He saved all eight break points he faced, which is something he has done well at Melbourne Park this year. In a five-set epic against Italian Jannik Sinner, Tsitsipas almost slipped up after being two sets to love up, but saved the day in the Round of 16 battle, winning 6-4 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3 in exactly four hours.

Over the course of the tournament, Tsitsipas has faced 49 break point opportunities and saved 43 of them. Offensively, he has served above 60 per cent for first serve in, and won 78 per cent or greater of his first serve points in all bar his match against Sinner. The big question mark will of course be the fact that Sinner was his only opponent inside the Top 60 in the world. Even the 20th ranked Karen Khachanov is a surprise semi-finalists, symbolic of a wide open draw full of surprise upsets, and casualties.

Tsitsipas has not lost in 2023 thus far, claiming four singles wins in Greece’s United Cup run to the semi-finals, including an impressive victory over Italian Matteo Berrettini and dangerous opponents Borna Coric and Grigor Dimitrov. Since the Paris Masters, Tsitsipas has a win-loss record of 14-3, and two of those losses have come against Djokovic, with the other against Russian Andrey Rublev, Djokovic’s quarter finals opponent.

Though he is yet to win a Grand Slam title, Tsitsipas has won multiple titles in four of the past five seasons, with the reduced 2020 year still producing a title in Marseille. He runs into an in-form Khachanov with the Russian in his second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final, having achieved the feat at Flushing Meadows last year. Tsitsipas reached the semi-finals 12 months ago but fell to second seed Daniil Medvedev after also beating Sinner in the quarter finals.

Heading into another Grand Slam semi-final, Tsitsipas was pleased to have the tough challenge of Lehecka before stepping onto court against Khachanov.

“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,” Tsitsipas said post-match. “It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult ones that I had so far in the competition.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments