Melbourne, Australia, Jan 25 (EFE).- Stefanos Tsitsipas moved into the Australian Open semifinals for the fourth time in his young career with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 victory over the Czech Republic’s Jiri Lehecka.
With the win, the Greek world No. 4 kept alive his bid to win a maiden Grand Slam title and take over the top spot in the ATP rankings for the first time.
The 24-year-old Tsitsipas, who is always buoyed by a large contingent of Greek fans in Melbourne, will be looking to go one step further after losing to Spanish great Rafael Nadal in the 2019 semifinals and to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in the final four in 2021 and 2022.
In Tuesday’s featured men’s match of the night session in Rod Laver Arena, Tsitsipas finally earned a key break of serve on his fifth opportunity when an outstanding lob on the full run forced Lehecka to miss a high backhand volley early in the first set.
The Greek star then relied on his potent service and forehand to preserve his lead, wrapping up the first set in 36 minutes with an unreturnable first serve.
The 21-year-old Lehecka proceeded to put Tsitsipas under pressure at the start of the second set, but the world No. 4 relied on his strong serve to save five break points to even the score at 2-2.
His dual weapons of serve and forehand also made the difference in the second-set tiebreaker, with Tsitsipas racing out to a 4-0 lead and then stretching his advantage to two sets to love when he went from defense to offense with a crosscourt running forehand winner.
Lehecka held firm and used his impressive ball striking from the baseline and well-timed net approaches to continue to hold serve consistently throughout most of the third set.
He then earned three more break points with Tsitsipas serving at 3-3, 0-40, but more service and forehand winners off the world No. 4’s racket allowed him to escape that jam as well.
That set also seemed headed for tiebreaker, but the match quickly slipped away from the 71st-ranked Czech player when he stepped up to the line to serve down 4-5.
A Tsitsipas backhand passing shot winner off a Lehecka serve-and-volley play gave him his first service break opportunity since the second game of the opening set and his first match point.
In the ensuing rally, the contest came to an end in two hours and 17 minutes when Lehecka dumped a backhand in the net.
Next up for Tsitsipas in Friday’s final four will be Russia’s Karen Khachanov, who advanced to his second straight Grand Slam semifinal when American Sebastian Korda retired with a wrist injury while trailing 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-0.
In other results on Tuesday in Melbourne, 23-year-old reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina stormed into her second career semifinal with an impressive 6-2, 6-4 victory over Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko.
She will next square off against 33-year-old Belarusian two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who rolled back the years to defeat third-ranked American Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-1 and reach her first semifinal at this Grand Slam event since 2013. EFE