Melbourne Park favourite Stefanos Tsitsipas has survived a third-set stumble to book his first Australian Open final. FOLLOW LIVE
Stefanos Tsitsipas is one win away from his first grand slam and a world ranking of No.1 after cruising into Sunday night’s Australian Open final.
The Greek botched a match point in the third set of his 7-6 6-4 6-7 6-3 victory against Karen Khachanov, but 41 minutes later he was through to his first final at Melbourne Park.
“No.1 in world, I like that number,” Tsitsipas said.
“It’s all about you – it’s singular. It’s one.”
The 24-year-old fan favourite entered the Australian Open as one of three players who could overtake injured youngster Carlos Alcaraz as the world No.1.
Victory on Sunday night would secure Tsitsipas’ dream in what would be a coup for Aussie Mark Philippoussis, who is on his team.
What has ‘Scud’ added?
“Sense of humour,” Tsitsipas laughed on Friday night.
“(And a) serve and volley, which I never use.”
Tsitsipas will achieve a “childhood dream” if he wins the final by becoming the world No.1.
“These are the moments I have been working hard for, to be able to play in finals like this but finals that have a bigger meaning than just the final,” he said.
“I know it probably doesn’t mean as much for Australians…but coming from a small country like Greece I am so grateful that I get support like this.
“I would have never thought I would be treated so well here so I’m extremely happy I’m in the final now and let’s see what happens.”
Tsitsipas led Djokovic two sets to love in the 2021 French Open final, only for the Serbian great to produce one of the all-time Grand Slam final comebacks to triumph in five sets.
If the nine-time champion progresses, one of the Australian Open’s most beloved figures will face arguably its most controversial in a battle made for the biggest stage.
“I’m close. I’m happy that this opportunity comes in Australia,” Tsitsipas said.
7.20PM WILL ‘SCAR TISSUE’ HURT TSITSIPAS HOPES?
Stefanos Tsitsipas was one set away from sealing his first Grand Slam win in 2021 at the French Open.
The Greek star led Novak Djokovic two sets to love after taking the first two sets 7-6 6-2 at Roland Garros.
Then Djokovic produced one of his greatest comebacks.
The next three sets went 6-3 6-2 6-4 in Djokovic’s favour to leave Tsitsipas stunned.
Commentator Jim Courier wondered whether the result would still cause mental scars if Djokovic progresses to face Tsitsipas in Melbourne.
“He’s got to believe it. He can,” Courier said on Channel 9.
“If it’s Novak, he’s got – you know, some scar tissue from the one final he had played.
“He led (by two sets) at Roland Garros a few years ago against Novak. He couldn’t close that. “Does he believe that he’s different now? That’s what he has to believe, that this is his time and he had to take his chances and play on the front foot.”
7.05PM WILL DJOKER DRAMA OVERSHADOW SEMI-FINAL?
Hours after his dad Srdjan issued a statement to say he would not be attending tonight’s match, Novak Djokovic will take the court against Tommy Paul.
Novak is no stranger to controversy and the likelihood is the drama will not impact on his performance tonight.
The timing though is at least less than ideal though and Ukranian tennis star Marta Kostyuk has tonight described the video of Srdjan with a flag featuring Vladimir Putin as something which “cannot be left unseen”.
‘SO NEGATIVE’: COACH’S FIERY ANTICS CALLED OUT
Former British tennis player Laura Robson has called out the coach of an Australian Open finalist for his antics on Rod Laver Arena last night.
Elena Rybakina booked her spot in Saturday night’s final with a straight sets win over Victoria Azarenka but it is her coach Stefano Vukov who has Melbourne Park talking.
Under new rules, coaching is allowed from a player box throughout the match and Vukov appeared to grab the opportunity with both hands.
A number of times he was shown throughout the telecast addressing Rybakina.
But Robson wasn’t a fan of the delivery of the message.
“We were actually watching the box a lot through the match anyway because, I don’t know how she deals with the coach,” Robson said.
“He seems to be so negative to me on the side.”
Despite the liveliness, Rybakina won through her match but will be an underdog in the final against No.5 seed Aryna Sabalenka.
‘UNACCEPTABLE’: NOVAK’S DAD’S ACTIONS CONDEMNED
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Victorian Shadow Sports Minister Sam Groth have condemned the actions of Novak Djokovic’s father, who was caught up in a pro-Russian flag furore.
Images emerged of Srdan Dokovic dad posing alongside a man with a flag bearing Russian president Vladimir Putin’s face, in an apparent breach of Melbourne Park rules.
He was filmed appearing to say “long live the Russians” in Serbian as a group of fans waved banned Russian flags and chanted pro-Russian slogans on the steps of Rod Laver Arena after Djokovic’s Wednesday night win over Russian Andrey Rublev.
Dutton said it was a “bizarre act”.
“The Russian onslaught continues, and frankly everybody of goodwill should be trying to deter, not encourage Putin,” he told Nine.
“It’s a bizarre act – sometimes you see these (things) from tennis parents and others over the years, but it’s an issue for Tennis Australia.”
Groth said the behaviours were “unacceptable”.
“Acts of incitement have no place in our state and no place at our major events,” he said.
“The Australian Open must be a welcoming, safe and inclusive event for all, not an opportunity to express a harmful and offensive agenda or deliberately intimidate others.
“Melbourne and Victoria are on the world’s stage and our reputation as a major events capital is on the line.
“It isn’t good enough for the state government to avoid responsibility and buck pass to others.
“This situation has gone on for too long and the State Government and event organisers must explain what actions they are taking to put an end to these unacceptable behaviours.”
It comes as 11 Ukrainian civilians were killed and nearly a dozen more were injured in the wake of a deadly Russian missile attack overnight.
The attack came in response to the announcement the United States and Germany would send tanks to the besieged country.
CHANNEL 9’S AWKWARD SEMI-FINAL PROMO GAFFE
Channel 9 … you had one job!
The Australian Open’s host broadcaster threw to a network promotion during the seesawing first set of the Elena Rybakina-Victoria Azarenka semi-final on Thursday night.
Nine was, of course, plugging the men’s semi-final double-header on Friday.
There was only one problem – the games they advertised won’t be happening.
The players were right but the match-ups were horribly, horribly wrong.
“Crowd favourite Tsitsipas takes on American Tommy Paul,” the voice over read.
“Plus, he’s breaking all the records. Novak Djokovic faces Kachanov in a semi-final epic.”
Umm … nope.
Tsitsipas faces Kachanov in a semi-final epic and the bloke breaking all the records, Novak Djokovic, takes on American Tommy Paul.
You’d think with four players and three games remaining in the men’s tournament you would get that one right. Oops.
SNUB WHICH SHOWS DJOKER-PAUL HATRED IS REAL
– Scott Gullan, Liam Healy and Julian Linden
Tommy Paul has never played Novak Djokovic in a match before, however that doesn’t mean the American hasn’t had a run-in with the Serbian great.
While Djokovic’s mental toughness on court and in game may be his greatest strength, will a certain moment from the 2022 Laver Cup be enough for the American to be in his head?
After defeating Frances Tiafoe, Djokovic approached the USA bench to shake the team’s hands.
One opponent did not shake the nine time Aus Open champion’s hand.
In an awkward moment, Paul turned his back, avoiding the Serbian.
So have the two been waiting for a moment such as this ever since?
Paul caught a glimpse of a scoreboard as he was on his way to his press conference on Wednesday night and wasn‘t surprised.
His potential semi-final opponent, Novak Djokovic, was already having his way with Andrey Rublev on Rod Laver Arena.
Two hours earlier he’d produced his best career result on that court, defeating fellow American Ben Shelton to book a spot in the final four at a grand slam for the first time.
“I think I saw Novak 5-1 in the first or something,” Paul said. “That‘s probably who I want to play. I mean, probably have a better chance of winning if it’s Rublev, but to play Novak here in Australia would be awesome.”
And there it is. The mental hold Djokovic has over the rest of the field in a nutshell.
Paul, 25, was just being a realist. The world No. 35 has never played the nine-time Australian Open champion before which adds to the element of intrigue.
“I saw him in the locker room after I finished my match and he said, ‘Congrats’,” Paul said. ”I think we have practised before. I mean, I’m sure we practised before but we’ve never played a match against each other.
“Obviously he‘s pretty comfortable here in Australia. It’s going to be a challenging match. But I’m playing some of my best tennis, so it’s a good time.”
Djokovic has been in this situation many times, an up-and-comer with nothing to lose on their first trip to the final four. Most seem to melt in those circumstances but there is the odd one who can play with freedom.
“He‘s been around for a few years, I watched him play quite a bit, especially during this tournament,” Djokovic said. ”He’s been playing probably the tennis of his life.
“A very explosive, very dynamic player. Quick, very solid backhand. Likes to step in, dictate the point with the forehand. Great, great service motion.
“I think he can hit all the spots with the serve. Very complete player. He‘s got the coach (Brad Stine) that has been around with some top players for many years.
“First semi-finals for him, so of course he doesn‘t have much to lose. I’m sure he’s going to go out trying to play his best tennis.”
The bad news for Paul is that according to Rublev, who had faced Djokovic three times previously before the quarter-final, the 21-time grand slam champion is going better this year.
“Out of three times that we played before, today he played much better compare our previous meetings,” Rublev said. ”Today, in my opinion, he was playing much better. That‘s it. I don’t know what else to say.”
Former Australian Open champion and leading commentator Jim Courier says his countryman needs to try and exploit Djokovic‘s injury concerns.
Even though the Serbian hasn‘t showed too many issues with his hamstring in his last two matches, Courier believes it is something Paul has to focus on.
“He‘s a heavy, heavy favourite, there is no doubt that is the case,” Courier said. ”But there’s still the strapping on the leg that is hovering. He has played unbelievably well, ruthlessly efficient in his last two matches against quality opposition, but you’re only one step away from trouble if you have the hamstring issue.
“That is what Tommy Paul has to sell himself, to tell himself. Novak, when he is normal, he hits the back end and he slides the open stance on the open side but he is turning around so as not to put pressure on the left leg.
“That is not normal. That tells me he is protecting a problem there so it‘s tougher for him to defend in the backhand corner. He (Paul) will need to use that and get Novak to do something awkward.”
All aboard the Tsitsipas magic carpet ride
Greek tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas is back on his magic carpet and taking everyone along for the ride.
Now, he just needs to make sure he doesn’t fall off this time.
The adopted favourite son of Melbourne‘s large Mediterranean community, Tsitipas is just one win away from reaching his first Australian Open final.
He’s so close he can feel the excitement and is already talking up his chances.
“It‘s a match that I’m looking forward to. It’s great to be back in the semi-finals,” he said.
“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.”
All the omens look good for Tsitsipas this time as he prepares for his semi-final opponent, Russia’s Karen Khachanov on Friday.
The pair have played each other five times before with Tsitsipas winning each time but he still isn’t taking anything for granted because this is the first time they’ve squared off in a best-of-five sets match at the Australian Open.
Ranked fourth in the world, Tsitsipas has more experience on Melbourne’s hardcourts than his Russian rival, but he’s also bombed out in his previous three Australian Open semis, in 2019, 2021 and 2022 so has been working as much on getting his head right as his body.
“I‘m a different player, playing differently. My mentality is different,” he said.
“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. It’s clearly mindset. Nothing more. I think it’s absolutely that.
“I feel great. I‘ve been playing some good tennis. The thing that I talked about with the mindset, it’s also the perspective that you get to see things from.”
Still only 24, Tsitsipas has all the physical attributes to be a grand slam champion but questions remain about his mental toughness after he imploded during his bitter showdown with Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon last year.
Tsitsipas has been on his best behaviour since returning to Australia but knows the biggest tests are still to come when the stakes and pressure get ramped up
Khachanov is no shrinking violet.
A semi-finalist at last year’s US Open, he is one of the most improved players in the game and has a reputation as a giant-killer after beating Kyrgios in New York.
He’s had to deal with a lot of other issues in Melbourne – including being heckled over his nationality even though he’s competed as a ‘neutral’ so is battle-hardened and ready for anything.
“It‘s all the details,” he said. “All the small things that you put together in order to kind of do those steps forward and to, yeah, to keep achieving those goals which are set.
“Making the semi-finals at the US Open gave me an extra boost and extra confidence to show where I really am and what I can do when I‘m at my best and how I can be more consistent.
“All those things together, they’ve pushed me to where I am right now.”
Being a Russian at the Australian Open this year is hard enough because of Vladimir Putin’s trooping wage war in Ukraine, so Khachanov knows he won’t be popular if he manages to defeat Tsitsipas.
But he’s used to that too, because he’s been knocking out the crowd favourites ever since he stepped foot in Melbourne Park, with his victims including Aussie hopeful Jason Kubler, American showman Frances Tiafoe and Sebastian Korda, the son of the 1998 Aussie Open champ Petr.
Originally published as Australian Open Day 12 live scores: Men’s semi-finals
https://www.codesports.com.au/tennis/australian-open-day-12-live-scores-mens-semifinals/news-story/089bfb1d36059766441d885dd5c14e3b?nk=db35983ae43f66adbeab2910b7c5363e-1674808027 Australian Open 2023: live scores, schedule, order of play: Novak Djokovic’s dad Putin video