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Take three: Tsitsipas scythes back into AO semifinals

  • Ravi Ubha

Stefanos Tsitsipas has suffered some early exits at Grand Slams in recent seasons but when the Greek star gets going, he is hard to stop.

Tsitsipas stayed perfect in quarterfinals at majors – now 5-0 – after sweeping past Jannik Sinner 6-3 6-4 6-2 in his sharpest performance yet at Australian Open 2022, one that propelled him to the final four in Melbourne for the third time in four years. 

MORE: Men's singles results AO 2022

His combination of pace and spin on the forehand pinned the Italian wunderkind back while slices and angles also unsettled his 20-year-old opponent.

Tsitsipas' serve proved the foundation. He didn't face a break point and claimed a tidy 79 per cent of first-serve points to back up early breaks in each set.

"I think my humility helped a lot today," Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. "I knew I was going on court facing a very good player. So I stayed intact and I tried to focus on my best shots and it kind of paid off more than I thought.

"I'm very, very happy with how I served, the way I came in, involved my tactics a lot in today's match structure."

Tsitsipas was on fire from start to finish

Not even a 20-minute delay to close the roof at Rod Laver Arena in the second set as rain interrupted Melbourne's sunshine disrupted the now three-time Australian Open semifinalist.

MORE: Men's singles draw AO 2022

The closed roof served to intensify the sound of his backers in a city with a substantial Greek population, though Sinner's supporters made themselves heard, too.

Having the crowd support, it's truly unbelievable," said Tsitsipas, who improved to 3-1 against Sinner.

Finishing in straight sets came especially handy for him after a five-set victory over Taylor Fritz on Monday and four-set struggles against Sebastian Baez and Benoit Paire.

He figures to have more in the tank ahead of a possible semifinal showdown with Daniil Medvedev for the second straight year.

Medvedev cruised over Tsitsipas last February following the former junior No.1's draining five-set comeback win over Rafael Nadal. 

Getting this far in Melbourne looked uncertain, though, after Tsitsipas underwent elbow surgery in the off-season.

"I'm pretty sure my doctor is watching right now," said Tsitsipas. "He has been sending me texts after every single game. We both didn't expect for me to participate at the Australian Open. It was not part of our plan.

"He certainly told me, ‘I don't see you playing in Australia'. But I proved him wrong."

Not Sinner's day, but the 20-year-old is just starting his tennis journey

Sinner's lone other Grand Slam quarterfinal came against Nadal at the French Open in 2020, and he'll likely be heartened by this fortnight when the dust settles.

But for the time being, he couldn't become the second Italian man ever to reach the Australian Open semifinals – after Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday.

Tsitsipas laid down a marker straight away.

Clubbing a pair of running cross-court forehands in the opening two games, including one at 148km/h, immediately pushed Sinner on the back foot.

Dropping serve from 40-15 in the second game of the match wasn't what Sinner – who rips hard off both wings – wanted.

Rain drops began to fall at the start of the second set, with the decision to close the roof an obvious one as the rain became harder.

Such stoppages can sometimes change the momentum – actual tennis conditions also differ – but not in this case.

A running forehand down the line from Sinner at 2-4 energised the fans yet such moments for the world No.10 were fleeting.

Tsitsipas' rocketed backhand down the line contributed to a break for 2-1 in the third.

He slammed the door shut in his lone moment of concern when taken to deuce in the ensuing game.

A deep backhand volley and inside-in forehand on consecutive points gave the 23-year-old breathing space – as did another break for 4-1.

Sinner's backhand unforced error ended the match, a shame since Tsitsipas' breathtaking play was the standout takeaway.