Grand Slam matches are frequently decided by the finest of margins, and so it was for Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jiri Lehecka on Tuesday at the Australian Open.
The third-seeded Tsitsipas prevailed 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-4 in the pair’s quarter-final clash at Melbourne Park, although the straight-sets scoreline disguised a closely-fought encounter. The 21-year-old Lehecka showed few signs of nerves on his Rod Laver Arena debut, striking confidently from the baseline throughout, but he was unable to match the Greek’s clinical execution at key moments.
“It felt different this time from any other match [this week], but the most important thing is that at the end I found a solution,” said Tsitsipas after moving within two victories of his maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne. “It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult ones that I had so far in the competition.
“I think Jiri had a very good tournament. He is someone who started playing well recently and I wish him the best in the future, because he is a great player.”
The win keeps alive Tsitsipas’ hopes of reaching No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time after the Australian Open. Just like fourth seed and nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, the Greek can leapfrog Carlos Alcaraz into top spot by lifting the trophy at the opening Grand Slam of the year.
Tsitsipas saved all eight break points he faced in the two-hour, 17-minute encounter with Lehecka, frequently producing precise and powerful serves to escape tricky situations. Solitary breaks in the first and third sets either side of a scintillating tie-break display in the second clinched the win for the World No. 4, who is now 9-0 for the 2023 season as he prepares for his fourth semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park.
“I had to deal with the groundstrokes that were coming off the racquet from the other side of the court much heavier, much deeper,” said Tsitsipas. “So that was a task in which I had to really put my heart out there and give it my best.
“I know the [second-set] tie-break became a very crucial tie-break [for] who was going to get back into the match. The way I saw it, that was my opportunity to really take a massive lead there, and I’m very happy with the way I closed the second set.”
With the victory, Tsitsipas improved his record in Grand Slam quarter-finals to 6-0. His semi-final opponent will be Karen Khachanov, after the 18th seed earlier led Sebastian Korda 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-0 when the American retired from their quarter-final clash due to a wrist injury.
Despite his defeat, Lehecka can reflect on an impressive run in Melbourne, where he arrived still chasing his first Grand Slam match win. He defeated 21st seed Borna Coric, Christopher Eubanks, 11th seed Cameron Norrie and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime with a series of high-quality displays.
The Czech, who finished his 2022 season on a high by reaching the championship match at the Next Gen ATP Finals, has lept 32 places to No. 39 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as a result of his Melbourne exploits.