Australian Open : Stefanos Tsitsipas reaches first Melbourne final; World No. 1 spot within grasp

Melbourne : Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece will play for his first Grand Slam title and the No. 1 ATP Ranking after he booked his place in the Australian Open final with a gritty win against Karen Khachanov here on Friday.

In a 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 semifinal victory, the Greek dominated with his all-action game, keeping his opponent under constant pressure in the three-hour, 21-minute match.

The third seed Greek awaits nine-time champion Novak Djokovic or unseeded American Tommy Paul in Sunday’s title match. If he faces the Serbian across the net, the pair will contest a straight shootout for World No. 1 in a rematch of the 2021 Roland Garros final, won by Djokovic in five sets.

“These are the moments I’ve been working hard for. To be able to play finals like this, but finals that have bigger meaning than just a final,” Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview.
“It’s a Grand Slam final, I’m fighting for the No. 1 spot. It’s a childhood dream to be capturing the No. 1 spot one day. I’m close. I’m happy that this opportunity comes here in Australia and not somewhere else because this is a place of significance.”

What looked on course to be his fifth straight-sets win of the fortnight was complicated by a late Khachanov surge. The first-time Melbourne semifinalist denied Tsitsipas’ attempt to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third set, and in the tie-break he saved two match points with fearless forehand winners, sparking a run of four points to steal the set.

But as he did after failing to serve out the opening set, the Greek responded, seeing home a 3-0 lead in the final set to advance. Tsitsipas overcame adversity in the first set, in which he twice led by a break only for Khachanov to immediately level on both occasions.

Despite being called for multiple time violations and a foot fault as the set built toward a tie-break, Tsitsipas regrouped and was the steadier player at the crucial moments, taking control of the match with a one-sided finish to the set.

Late in set two, Tsitsipas used the point of the match to bring up 15/40 in the ninth game, retrieving three consecutive Khachanov overheads before claiming a 22-ball rally with a forehand winner.

He went on to seal the break and serve out the set to love. Tsitsipas did his damage early in set three, breaking in its third game, but he could not extend his lead despite forcing a deuce in his next two return games.

That came back to haunt him as Khachanov extended the match, but the Greek made no mistake in the fourth set, clinching victory on his fourth match point. The third seed faced just one break point in the final three sets — the crucial moment when Khachanov broke from 30/15 as Tsitsipas tightened in his effort to serve out the match.

Khachanov was bidding to reach his first Grand Slam final in what was his 24th Grand Slam appearance. The 26-year-old reached the semifinals at consecutive majors after advancing to that stage of the Slam for the first time at the 2022 US Open.


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