Stefanos Tsitsipas’ stature rose to another level in the early hours of Thursday morning at the iconic Rod Laver Arena when he engineered a monumental comeback against one of the greats of the game, Rafael Nadal. In an intriguing quarterfinal battle that lasted over four hours, the 22-year-old Greek, who was blown away by the Spaniard in the first two sets, won the next three to send the 2009 Australian Open champion packing out of the tournament with a 3-6 2-6 7-6 6-4 7-5 win.
That sensational win, earned him a place in a Grand Slam semifinal just for the third time in his career, his second Down Under, and he will now lock horns with the in-form Russian, Daniil Medvedev for a spot in Sunday’s final. While the young Greek had to stage a phenomenal comeback against the 20-time Major champion, Medvedev scored a routine 7-5 6-3 6-2 victory over his compatriot Andrey Rublev. Of late, the 25-year-old Russian has been in the form of his life and is on an exceptional 19-match winning streak that begun at the Paris Masters early last November.
Coming into this year’s Australian Open, Medvedev had played a leading role in Russia’s maiden ATP Cup win, dropping just a solitary set in his four victories. And, barring his third-round contest with Filip Krajinovic where he had to dig deep to win in five sets, the Russian has been near flawless en route to the last four at the Australian Open. Medvedev also leads Tsitsipas 5-1 in their head-to-head. However, it was Tsitsipas who won their most recent meeting, getting the better of the Russian in straight sets at the ATP Finals in 2019.
Tsitsipas and Medvedev have contrasting styles of play with the former being more attacking and aggressive while the latter plays more defensively, although he can hit his shots with startling angles to outmanoeuvre his opponents. Still, there is nothing fussy about Medvedev’s game, with his greatest strength his ability to defend from behind the baseline. When he is in his zone, the Russian can be like a brick wall, getting almost every ball back into play in spite of being pushed into difficult positions on the court.
Tsitsipas might not possess the same power off the ground as players like Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka, but the Greek is a clean striker of the ball. He will need to continue that clean hitting to get past Medvedev’s superb defences, but after beating Nadal in the quarterfinals, the 22-year-old Greek is on a high and he will presumably be hoping to ride that momentum into the final.
However facing Medvedev, who appeared to be playing at the peak of his powers during his ruthless win over Rublev, will be a different proposition altogether and Tsitsipas must prepare himself mentally to grind once again against the Russian, who will not mind engaging in long rallies to make his opponent eventually crumble.
Though Medvedev starts as a slight favourite against the Greek, the Russian is quite temperamental on court and must guard against dropping his intensity or focus as Tsitsipas, who demonstrated nerves of steel to come through his testing quarterfinal against Nadal, can pounce even on the smallest of openings that the Russian offers.
Can the young Greek halt Medvedev’s 19-match winning streak to seal his maiden spot in the Grand Slam final or will Medvedev diffuse Tsitsipas’ challenge to advance to his first final Down Under? An intriguing and fascinating semifinal between two of the most promising young guns in the men’s game awaits on the Rod Laver Arena.
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