Stefanos Tsitsipas finds himself in the Australian Open semi-finals for the fourth time, with a golden opportunity against Olympic silver medalist Karen Khachanov on Friday. While the Greek has thrived in Melbourne throughout his career, Khachanov had not been beyond the third round Down Under until this year.

With the large Greek population in Melbourne and its similar climate to his native Athens, Tsitsipas has called the Australian Open his “home Slam”. He has been a second-week regular at the event since his breakout run in 2019, but has never been able to reach the title round, falling one match short against Rafael Nadal in ’19 and Daniil Medvedev each of the past two years.

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But the 24-year-old’s play this fortnight, during which he has won four of his five matches in straight sets, makes him a hot favourite to rectify that against Khachanov. He’ll be further fuelled by his 5-0 ATP Head2Head record against the 18th seed, their most recent meeting last season in Rome.

Asked if this could be the year for his Grand Slam trophy breakthrough, Tsitsipas’ reply was brimming with confidence — much like his game.

“I’m feeling great with my tennis,” said the World No. 4, who would claim the top spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings with the AO title. “I don’t think I felt so good in a long time. I will definitely say yes to it.

“I’m a different player, playing different. My mentality is different. When I’m out on the court, I don’t really think of negatives, to be honest. I just go out there and play the game.”

 

Who will win the men’s singles title?

[18] Karen Khachanov

[3] Stefanos Tsitsipas

[4] Novak Djokovic

Tommy Paul

Khachanov has also spoken of a recent transformation in his game. After reaching the US Open semis last season, the 18th seed has matched his best Grand Slam result in Melbourne.

“I think I kind of reinvented myself,” he said, three-and-a-half years after reaching a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 8 in 2019. “I always believe in myself but there are always ups and downs, and sometimes when you have a great result it just shows you what you are capable of and then you start to believe more and more.

“This belief and self-confidence I think appeared much stronger after the US Open. I made a few semi-finals already so I hope to continue that way and to grow as a person and as a sportsman.”

By reaching the quarter-finals this week, Khachanov became the 10th active male player and the 50th in the Open Era to reach that stage at all four Grand Slams. But the 26-year-old was far from satisfied, taking the initiative against Sebastian Korda on Tuesday before the American retired with Khachanov leading 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-0. Korda was the third seeded player dismissed by Khachanov this week, after his earlier wins against 16th seed Frances Tiafoe and 31st seed Yoshihito Nishioka. 

Tsitsipas faced only one seed on his way to the semis, when he survived a furious comeback from 15th seed Jannik Sinner in a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 fourth-round win. He backed that up with a 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-4 triumph against 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up Jiri Lehecka in a match Tsitsipas said felt much tighter than the scoreline indicated. The Greek saved all eight break points against him, with those chances coming in two games, including a 0/40 escape late in set three to deny Lehecka the opportunity to serve for the set.

After the tension dissipated, Tsitsipas was all smiles in his on-court interview as he continued his new tradition of dropping some Aussie slang into his replies: “I can say it was a fair dinkum type of performance,” he told the Rod Laver Arena crowd, before inviting Australian actress Margot Robbie to his player box for the final rounds.

He’ll be hoping to play another “ripper” in the semis.

“It’s a match that I’m looking forward to,” he later added in press. “It’s great to be back in the semi-finals. Of course, I’m definitely happy with the way I’ve been playing so far. I’m looking ahead for more, for better. Looking to create some magical experiences here in Australia.”

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