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Same end, but new beginning for Tsitsipas

  • Ravi Ubha

Despite suffering a tough loss in the Australian Open semifinals to familiar foe Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas is excited about what is to come for the rest of the 2022 campaign. 

The Greek not dwelling on the defeat is completely understandable, given his high level on Friday night and admitting earlier this week that off-season elbow surgery left him in serious doubt for the Melbourne Park extravaganza in the first place. 

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Medvedev just could be the best men's hard court player at the moment, too. 

Tsitsipas' 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4 6-1 loss to the Russian in front of his big fan club at Rod Laver Arena that hoisted Greek flags and chanted his name at AO 22 followed battling victories over Sebastian Baez, Benoit Paire and Taylor Fritz. 

"He played better," Tsitsipas said of Medvedev. 

"He played good, good tennis. I'm able to take only the best out of it. I'm not gonna focus on the negatives.

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"I have a long season ahead of me, with a lot of opportunities I believe that I'm going to try and grab and get the best out of my tennis, get the best out of my experiences that I can always work towards and help myself improve physically, mentally, improve my game generally.

"I see today's performance as a lesson that I can use to move forward."

Tsitsipas' semifinal loss was his third in the past four Australian Opens

When asked what was required to take the "next step," presumably winning a Grand Slam title after losing to Novak Djokovic in last year's French Open final in five sets, Tsitsipas said he was already there – having the elbow operation. 

The move is already paying dividends, not only reducing the pain but allowing Tsitsipas to work on his serve. 

"I think I have been able to take that next step, and that next step is serving without pain, something that I was unable to do when my serve was at its worst few months ago, having to deal with so much pain after every single serve I would hit," he said. 

"I'm very happy and proud that I've gone through that procedure of being able to come back stronger and play pain-free.

"I have been very committed with my serve. I've been doing an incredible job bringing it higher in terms of percentages and having it more as a weapon than before."

Indeed, Tsitsipas' first-serve percentage hit a lofty 69 per cent, although Medvedev's tally of winning 86 per cent of first-serve points bettered the Greek's 67 per cent. 

Tsitsipas went into the pair's second-straight semifinal in Melbourne in better shape physically after a two-set comeback against Rafael Nadal in last February's edition left him "cooked and exhausted."

If not the turning point, Friday night's first-set tiebreak proved a huge moment.

Medvedev overturned a 4-1 deficit with stellar play, his ace for 5-5 catching a sliver of the line one point after his backhand missed long by about the same margin. 

And once Medvedev wins the opening set at a hard-court Grand Slam, he simply doesn't lose. 

"Of course I'm a person that tries to fight until the very last point," said Tsitsipas. 

"The first tiebreak would have been very important. I had every opportunity to win it but I didn't. 

"I think it would have been a different match winning that first set, which would be, in fact, very crucial."

While Tsitsipas' Australian Open ended at the same stage as it did 11 months previously, this year's Melbourne run perhaps exceeded his expectations. 

"Very happy that I had opportunity to perform here in front of my Greek and non-Greek fans," said Tsitsipas. 

"Australia has a special place in my heart, and I always feel like I'm at home here.

"I strongly believe I will be able to do very well here one day and give that joy and give that happiness to share it with the fellow Aussies here and the Greek community. 

"It is a tournament that I very much love, and it is a tournament that I want to thrive in one day."