Stefanos Tsitsipas into first Australian Open final after overcoming wobble and Karen Khachanov
Stefanos Tsitsipas overcame a third-set wobble to defeat Karen Khachanov and reach his first Australian Open final.
The third seed has been a man on a mission all fortnight, troubled only by Jannik Sinner in the fourth round until now, and he looked set to cruise into the final as he stepped up to serve for a straight-sets victory.
But Russian Khachanov clung on, breaking Tsitsipas and then saving two match points in the third-set tie-break before the Greek eventually clinched a 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 victory.
Tsitsipas had reached the last four in three of the last four years at Melbourne Park without going further, losing in 2019 to Rafael Nadal and in 2021 and 2022 to Daniil Medvedev.
A sizzling semifinal ends in Greek glory 🇬🇷 @steftsitsipas overcomes a valiant Karen Khachanov to reach his first #AusOpen final.
It ends 7-6(2) 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 👏#AO2023 pic.twitter.com/jsik2uaovL
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2023
He was not to be denied this time, though, and will now aim to go one better than his only previous Slam final at the French Open in 2021, when he led Novak Djokovic by two sets to one but was eventually beaten.
“I first watched Marcos [Baghdatis] do it years ago, playing in the final on this court [in 2008], and I dreamed of doing that one day, against the best players in the world,” the Greek said.
“I’m happy with the fight I put up, it brings back memories of when I was a kid and cheering at the TV. Unfortunately, it didn’t go his way, but he’s always in our hearts and will forever be one of my favourite players.
“I thought of how hard I’ve worked to get to this position. I wasn’t able to [seal the match] in the third set, but I was extremely close. If you stick around, dedicate yourself even more, it pays off well. Having that ambience in the background, when you’re hitting the ball well, it’s so rewarding.”
He may well find the Serbian on the other side of the net again but will believe, if he can show the same form he produced for most of this contest, he can have a chance of pulling off the upset.
Tsitsipas will surely need to avoid the same lapses if it is Djokovic he faces, though, after also failing to serve out the opening set.
Having broken to lead 5-3, Tsitsipas played a poor game to drop serve and was then briefly in trouble at 5-5 after double-faulting when a second time violation resulted in him forfeiting a first serve.
He recovered to hold, though, and played a flawless tie-break to move in front.
Tsitsipas, who had won all his previous five matches against Khachanov, was the better player in the second set as well, finally breaking in the penultimate game, and he appeared poised for victory serving for the match at 5-4 in the third.
Khachanov rallied, though, breaking back and then producing two huge forehand winners when Tsitsipas moved 6-4 ahead in the tie-break.
The third seed appeared rattled and drove a forehand long to hand the set to Khachanov, but he regrouped quickly with a break at the start of the fourth and this time held onto it.
The result means a second successive semi-final exit at a Slam for Khachanov, who was cheered on by a number of fans waving Armenian flags following his public support for the breakaway region of Artsakh.
Hubert Hurkacz comes through epic battle with Thanasi Kokkinakis
Hubert Hurkacz won a match that stands as the longest three-setter of the season to date.
WATCH: ‘Greek god’ Marton Fucsovics takes shirt off to reveal ripped body
Marton Fucsovics shows off his muscles again.
Aryna Sabalenka eyes Iga Swiatek’s No 1 spot – Why Sabalenka could usurp the Pole in the coming months
Aryna Sabalenka’s world No 1 goal could be within touching distance.
What Novak Djokovic needs to do to be top seed at French Open
Novak Djokovic has a big chance to be back at No 1 in time for the French Open.
Wimbledon reach verdict on Russian players with announcement imminent
The decision on whether Russian and Belarusian players can compete at Wimbledon this summer has been made.
Tennis legend predicts how many Grand Slams Novak Djokovic will win
Novak Djokovic is “going to be winning majors as long as he’s healthy”.
Aryna Sabalenka, WTA and Steve Simon slammed as tension in tennis continues to escalate
All is not well in women’s tennis.
Carlos Alcaraz off the mark in Miami as Jimmy Connors explains why he is head and shoulders above his peers
Carlos Alcaraz up and running in Miami as Jimmy Connors waxes lyrical about Spaniard.
Ons Jabeur’s ‘season is just starting now’ after injury woes
Ons Jabeur ready to go again.