By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Stefanos Tsitsipas  def. Roger Federer  6-7(11) 7-6(3) 7-5 7-6(5)
- Defending champion departs on Middle Sunday
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Stefanos Tsitsipas stunned defending champion Roger Federer in four tight sets to reach his first Slam quarter-final.
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Stefanos Tsitsipas  def. Roger Federer  6-7(11) 7-6(3) 7-5 7-6(5)
There are occasional moments in tennis where you feel you are witnessing something special – this was that moment. Stefanos Tsitsipas from the ATP NextGen clan stepped up to the plate and bounced Roger Federer out of the Australian Open, a full seven days before he would have been expected to leave!
The defending champion never really looked comfortable out there against the flashy Tsitsipas in what turned out to be four highly competitive sets. In a first, long and indeed tense game with a time violation to boot, Federer looked in control but did not get another look at the Tsitsipas serve as the pair fought their way to a tie-break.
To say momentum swung from both sides is an understatement with Tsitsipas having three chances to take a lead, and Federer clinching the set on his fourth try. Although he was breathing heavily at the change of ends, Tsitsipas stayed on Federer’s shoulder throughout the second set two.
Again, there were no chances for the Greek to break but the Swiss had chances a-plenty to break, passing up on eight break point chances, four of them set points, to get to another tie-break. This time Tsitsipas built up a comfortable lead needing just one set point to level things up.
It took until the third set for Tsitsipas to finally have chances to break the Federer serve, he deflected two on his own serve, as it began to look as though his legs were tightening up, and he could not take his first two chances, but would go on to break Federer for a 2-1 lead.
It speaks to the quality of play that neither player had a chance to break in the fourth set, as they hurtled towards another tie-break. This was as tight as the set had been, with just a trade of mini-breaks at the start, before the telling mini-break for Tsitsipas to take it on his first match point.
‘Lost to a better player’
Federer was swiftly into press and admitted that Sunday was a night of missed opportunities as his title defence slipped away.
He told reporters: “It definitely didn’t go the way I was hoping on the breakpoints. I also didn’t break him at the Hopman Cup, so clearly something is wrong how I return him, what I’m trying to do. He’s doing a good job to defend them. Nevertheless, it’s very frustrating.
“I lost to a better player who was playing very well tonight. Hung in there, gave himself chances at some point, stayed calm. It’s not always easy, especially for younger guys. Credit to him for taking care of that.
“Conditions also changed throughout the match like every year when you start at 7, go into the night. It gets harder to go through the opponent. I thought conditions were definitely a bit slower this year than last year. Didn’t allow for as much variation, to be quite honest. But he did a nice job of taking care of his half volleys. That’s maybe what won him the match tonight, I’m not sure.”
Speaking on court after his emotional win, Tsitsipas was quick to praise Federer, who he idolised, on what had been a great day for the next generation of ATP stars after an emotional win for the 21-year-old Frances Tiafoe over Grigor Dimitrov.
Tsitsipas told John McEnroe: “There’s nothing I can describe it to. I’m the happiest man on earth right now! Roger is a legend of our sport. So much respect for him. It was a dream to be on Rod Laver facing him. Winning at the end, I cannot describe it, you know?”
“It’s important to have this aggressive mind-set. Play in the moment, have first serves in and press from the very beginning. I didn’t lose my patience. That was the key to save those break points. Overall I showed a great fighting spirit and determination.”
Tsitsipas will play Roberto Bautista Agut who beat last year’s finalist Marin Cilic in five sets.
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