Stefanos Tsitsipas passed a real test of his title-winning credentials Sunday at the Australian Open, where the third seed held firm in the face of a Jannik Sinner onslaught to clinch a thrilling 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 fourth-round victory.
Having marched through his opening three matches in Melbourne without dropping a set, the Greek was presented with the biggest test of his campaign by 21-year-old Sinner. A remarkable mid-match rise in level from the Italian set a tense finish on Rod Laver Arena, but Tsitsipas retained his composure, dialled in behind his serve and huge forehand, and clinched a decisive break in the sixth game of the fifth set en route to a gripping four-hour win.
“It was a long match, guys, I feel like I spent an entire century in this court playing tennis,” said Tsitsipas to the crowd in his on-court interview. “It felt so long. What a great night… I’m really excited to be sharing moments like this on the court, especially in Australia. I’m trying to do my best out here, it’s not easy. I had an unbelievable opponent on the other side of the court today, playing incredible tennis in the third and fourth sets.”
Despite Tsitsipas easing to the first two sets, an increasingly confident Sinner dominated the baseline exchanges in the third and fourth sets to carry the momentum into the decider. Yet the Italian was left to rue missed chances throughout the match — he converted just four of 26 break points as Tsitsipas’ clutch serving at key moments helped keep his hopes of claiming a maiden Grand Slam title this fortnight in Melbourne alive.
The victory extended Tsitsipas’ ATP Head2Head series lead against Sinner to 5-1. The Greek, who will rise to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time should he lift the trophy in Melbourne, will next take on Jiri Lehecka as he bids for a third straight Australian Open semi-final appearance.
Early in Sunday’s clash, Sinner frequently struggled to match Tsitsipas’ consistency in the baseline exchanges as the third seed delighted his vocal supporters in the crowd with a clinical display across the first two sets. Having broken Sinner’s serve four times for a two-sets-to-love lead, however, Tsitsipas lost his way.
Sinner began to dictate with ease from the baseline and was particularly effective with his drop shot. The Italian carved out 18 break point chances across the third and fourth sets and, despite only converting two of them, levelled a match he had appeared destined to comfortably lose.
From there, the greater experience of three-time Australian Open semi-finalist Tsitsipas began to show. He steadied himself on serve with a barrage of powerful and precise first deliveries before crucially breaking Sinner in the sixth game of the deciding set. The 24-year-old remained untroubled on serve from then on to seal a spot in his sixth Grand Slam quarter-final.
“I think I just released my arm a little bit, released my wrist on the serve,” said Tsitsipas, who made 92 per cent (24/26) of first serves in the fifth set. “I think that helped me a lot to generate more power and accuracy, something that I wasn’t doing before. It completely changed the way I approached the match, since that moment when I made that minor adjustment. That helped me serve it out pretty well towards the end without being too tense.”
Tsitsipas, who now holds a 19-5 record at the Australian Open, next prepares for a second tour-level meeting against 21-year-old Lehecka. The Czech will be feeling confident after upsetting sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), 7-6(3) earlier on Sunday, although it was Tsitsipas who prevailed in three sets in the pair’s previous tour-level meeting in Rotterdam last February.