Stefanos Tsitsipas rallied from the brink of an embarassing straight sets defeat at the hands of the 2009 champion Rafael Nadal to reach the last four at the Australian Open in Melbourne after completing a 3-6,2-6,7-6(4),6-4,7-5 win in four hours and five minutes of high quality tennis. He joins the eight time champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia and the Russians Daniil Medvedev and the Qualifier Aslan Karatsev.
In the last quarter final, the Spaniard Rafael Nadal who was bidding to become the only player in Open Era to win all four grand slams atleast twice, continued his run of 33 consecutive sets in grand slams, which includes 21 sets and 7 matches at last year’s Roland Garros and 12 sets and 4 matches in this year’s Australian Open by claiming the first two sets easily against the fifth seeded Tsitsipas. Nadal broke serve in the eighth game of the first set and then in the opening and then again in the fifth game to establish a two set lead. In the third set Nadal won 24 out of 25 points on serve but made two crucial errors in the tie-break which he lost 4-7. It was the time he lost a set in five matches this year at Melbourne. Games then went with serve in the fourth set before Tsitsipas broke in the ninth game, claiming the set 6-4. He would then break the Spaniards serve to love in the eleventh game before serving out the match but not before saving two break points, finally hitting s backhand winner down the line on his third match point.
Earlier in the day, the fourth seeded Daniil Medvedev advanced after beating fellow countryman Andrey Rublev of Russia extending his winning streak to nineteen matches dating back to the Indoor tournament in Paris last November. He next faces Tsitsipas after a 7-5,6-3,6-2 to extend his career head to head to 4-0 against the seventh seeded Rublev. He has now won eleven consecutive matches against Top Ten opponents and in reaching the semi-finals for the first time Down under he is guaranteed to rise to a career high ranking of number three for the first time. Both players entered the match with identical 8-0 start to the year in which they led Russia to a maiden ATP Cup win, but Medvedev needed only two hours and five minutes to beat Rublev under the hot Melbourne sun on Rod Laver Arena.
Earlier on Tuesday, the 114th ranked qualifier Aslan Karatsev created history by becoming the first qualifier in Open Era to reach the semifinals of a grand slam on debut after completing a 2-6,6-4,6-1,6-2 win over the 18th seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov who was clearly hampered by back spasms after the second set. Dimitrov who had beaten last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem in straight sets in the previous round, took a medical time out at the start of the fourth set but was only marginally better.
In the evening session, world number one Novak Djokovic enjoyed what he called a Miracle serving day against the sixth seeded German Alexander Zverev, serving 23 aces to seal a 6-7(6),6-2,6-4,7-6(6) win and move into the semifinals for the ninth time in his quest for a record extending ninth title in Melbourne. Zverev had breaks of serve in the first, third and fourth sets but each time Djokovic fought back. Zverev failed to serve out the opening set but did not falter in the tie-break to take a one set lead. Zverev served 21 aces in the match but his serve deserted him in the crucial moments as he failed to capitalise on early breaks of serve in both the third and fourth set. Djokovic improves to 6-2 in his career matches against the German.
Following is the line up for the last four with my pick mentioned first :-
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Aslan Karatsev (Q); first meeting
Daniil Medvedev (4) v. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5); Medvedev leads 5-1.
In the ladies section of the draw there were two major upsets as both the top two seeds crashed out in the quarter-finals. Tenth seeded Serena Williams, going for a record equalling 24th grand slam titles had a crushing 6-3,6-3 win over the second seeded Simona Halep of Romania. Top seeded Ashley Barty of Australia, fell apart after the first set, clearly distracted by a ten minute medical time out by the 25th seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic who advanced after a 1-6,6-3,6-2 win on Wednesday.
Williams next plays the 2019 champion Naomi Osaka of Japan, seeded third, who had a routine 6-2,6-2 win against Su-Wei Hsieh of Chinese Taipei. Muchova next takes on Jennifer Brady who beat Jessica Pegula 4-6,6-2,6-1 in an all American match up.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]