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Tsitsipas shows steel to edge Fritz in thriller

  • Gillian Tan

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has rounded out the Australian Open men's singles quarterfinals line-up, surviving an electric five-set battle with 20th seed Taylor Fritz on Monday night.

MORE: All the scores from Day 8 at AO 2022

The Greek needed three hours and 23 minutes to seal a 4-6 6-4 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory, booking the fifth Grand Slam quarterfinal of his career.

"An epic match, that's what I can say," said Tsitsipas. 

MORE: AO 2022 men's singles draw

"I gave everything out on the court today, I'm very proud of myself the way I fought, the way I stayed consistent in the moments that were very close and crucial."

The duo, both junior world No.1s, began battling each other as teenagers, so there were no secrets when they stepped onto Rod Laver Arena on Monday night. 

Cries of "Tsi-tsi-tsi-tsi-pas" echoed early, with fans aware of the 23 year-old's prior Melbourne Park heroics, headlined by upsets of Rafael Nadal last year and Roger Federer in 2019. 

Yet it was his opponent Fritz, searching for a maiden top-five scalp at a Grand Slam, who created the first couple of break point opportunities of the match at 2-2. The big-serving Greek fended off both, closing out the game but not before receiving a time violation penalty that cost him a first serve. 

As the world No.4 served at 3-3, Fritz scored a crucial break by dragging Tsitsipas out wide to return a forehand, only for the Greek to slap it into the net. Maintaining the advantage all the way to 5-4 and undaunted by his lead, the American ripped a cross-court forehand winner on his first set point.

Fritz settled fastest, and struck first

The more experienced Tsitsipas began to employ slice in an attempt to disrupt Fritz's rhythm to little avail. Tsitsipas, who dropped just three points on serve in his first five service games, earned his first break chance of the match with the American serving at 4-5. The two-time Melbourne semifinalist levelled the match at one set apiece as a Fritz forehand landed millimetres past the baseline.

In the first game of the third, increasingly destabilised by his rival, Tsitsipas withstood another four break points to hold. But Fritz converted a break chance in the seventh game, courtesy of a shanked forehand from Tsitsipas. The California-born right-hander quickly consolidated, and dictated points with booming, often flat, groundstrokes that asked questions of his higher-ranked opponent. Tsitsipas answered by fending off a trio of break points in thrilling fashion at 3-5 to extend the set. With the composure of a veteran well beyond his 24 years, Fritz found his targets, firing a forehand winner to snag a two-sets-to-one lead. 

A stalemate fourth set ensued, with only one of the first seven games drawn to deuce. Serving at 3-4, Fritz saw off a break point when Tsitsipas prematurely ended a nail-biting 19-stroke rally, but conceded the next – and the game – by dumping a forehand into the net. 

When the fourth seed served at 5-3, Fritz briefly had momentum, garnering two break points that would enable him to relevel the set. But the Greek star showed why he's been a fixture in the top 10, delivering four consecutive winners including an ace to close out the set and force a decisive fifth, to the crowd's delight. 

Despite mounting tension, the pair were untroubled on serve as ace counts kept climbing. But as Fritz served at 4-4, Tsitsipas won the first point in a dramatic 22-ball rally, and captured a critical break as Fritz jammed a volley into the net. 

Serving for the match as the clock struck midnight, Tsitsipas raised his hands to the sky after a Fritz forehand landed well behind the baseline. 

"I'm overwhelmed," said Tsitsipas after extending his career five-set record to 8-6. 

"It's too good to be true." 

Tsitsipas' ability to soak up pressure proved pivotal

Tsitsipas saved an incredible 13 of 15 break points, and converted three of his comparatively meagre five chances. 

"I knew it was going to get physical and I kept reminding myself, get in there, do the work, don't give up – just a little bit more patience, and at the end it paid off," he said. 

Awaiting Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals is Jannik Sinner, the Italian 11th seed who emphatically ended Alex de Minaur's run at his home major in straight sets. 

"He had an amazing 2021, I'm expecting big tennis from him," said Tsitsipas, who holds a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over the 20-year-old.