Stefanos Tsitsipas roars back to beat Taylor Fritz in Australian Open epic

·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
  • World No 4 recovers to win 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4

  • He faces Jannik Sinner next, who beat Alex de Minaur

Seven weeks before the Australian Open began, as most tennis players were figuring out how they would tackle the off-season to come, Stefanos Tsitsipas had a different predicament. After years of pain management and a bitter withdrawal from the 2021 ATP Finals, he had undergone surgery on his right elbow to alleviate his problems for good. As he lay in his hospital bed on 23 November, Tsitsipas faced a race to be ready in time for a new season.

On Monday night, before a thunderous crowd filled to its 50% capacity with members of Melbourne’s Greek community, Tsitsipas, the fourth seed, recovered from two sets to one down against one of the tour’s in-form players, defeating American Taylor Fritz 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals. Tsitsipas will next face the 11th seed, Jannik Sinner, who was an efficient 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-4 winner over Alex de Minaur.

Related: Cornet outlasts Halep in Australia heat to reach first grand slam quarter-final

“An epic match, that’s what I can say,” said Tsitsipas afterwards. “I gave everything out on the court today. I’m very proud of myself, the way I fought, the way I stayed consistent in the moments that were very close and crucial. I’m overwhelmed. Just too much. The stadium was on fire. It’s too good to be true.”

Fritz, the 20th seed, has recently been in the form of his life. He does not have the athleticism of some of his peers, but he is blessed with a fast arm, a big serve and he is technically solid off both wings. He used those weapons and his confidence seamlessly, dominating his service games and generating 13 break points on the Tsitsipas serve.

While Tsitsipas was not his direct, attacking best, he dug in; he fought desperately for every last point and he used every inch of big match experience he has accrued in his young career. Such was his focus, Tsitsipas lost track of the score in the second set and initially did not even realise he had won it. When the decisive moments came, Tsitsipas was ready. He snatched the decisive break by soaking up Fritz’ attack and then produced a sweet, dipping forehand passing shot at 4-4 in the fifth set. He ended the set with just four unforced errors and, under immense pressure, he moved on.

Tsitsipas, followed by cameras for a Netflix documentary, said afterwards that his recovery from elbow surgery was a surprise even to his own doctor, yet he is still here. “I knew that Australia was coming soon and I would have to be playing again very soon. I missed two weeks of preseason, which was not too bad, because the doctor predicted otherwise. My recovery was faster than anyone would have thought it would have been. My recovery was very surprising to my doctor.”

Earlier in the day, Daniil Medvedev, still the tournament favourite, moved on into the quarter-finals with a tough 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (4-7), 7-5 win over Maxime Cressy. Cressy, a 24-year-old American born in Paris, has frustrated many with his serve and volley style as he has risen up the rankings.

On Monday, it was Medvedev’s turn to be irritated as he struggled to convert break points in the third and fourth sets. As his anger rose, Medvedev began to vent, calling the match “boring” and complaining about his opponent’s luck. He spoke in English throughout, his third language.

In an interview with Eurosport, Medvedev admitted, apologetically, that he was playing some mind games, which he regretted. “During the match I got a little bit crazy, I think, with myself,” he said. “I even went a little bit, tried to talk something in the air to get into his mind a little bit so maybe he starts saying: ‘What the hell is Medvedev saying?’ And maybe, I don’t know, he’s gonna miss some shots. I’m not happy with what I said today but the most important is that I managed to keep on fighting.”

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Medvedev expressed regret for his comments in his press conference afterwards. “I don’t like trash talking. I sometimes can unfortunately roll into this, but I don’t like it. I think I try almost never to do it, especially against other players, and again, today was borderline. I don’t think I actually said anything bad about Maxime, but, yeah, borderline where I’m not really happy about it,” he said.

Medvedev will face ninth seed Félix Auger-Aliassime next, who recovered from a set down against Marin Cilic to reach his third consecutive major quarter-final with a 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) win.

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