Having toppled 20-times Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday, an overwhelmed Stefanos Tsitsipas felt thrilled to have turned his idol into a “rival”. The shaggy-haired 20-year-old’s 6-7(11) 7-6(3) 7-5 7-6(5) triumph at Rod Laver Arena made him the first Greek to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam while condemning Federer to his earliest exit from Melbourne Park in four years.
John McEnroe told the terraces they had just witnessed “a changing of the guard”, and the reigning NextGen ATP champion also felt the weight of the moment after sealing match point in front of a heaving crowd. “It was a very emotional moment. It was something — a beginning of something really big. I felt joy. I felt happiness. I felt a huge relief going out of my shoulders,” Tsitsipas told reporters. “That moment is definitely something that I will never, ever, ever forget. This match point is going to stay, I’m pretty much sure, forever, for the rest of my life. I just managed to close that match and stay strong, beat my idol. My idol today became pretty much my rival.”
Melbourne’s large Greek community came out in force at Melbourne Park and belted out songs of support at the Grand Slam Garden adjacent to the stadium. Tsitsipas will hope to reward their support by blazing a trail to the semi-finals and maybe beyond if he can beat Spain’s 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut in his next match.
It will be a match of two maiden Grand Slam quarter-finalists and Tsitsipas was confident he could progress, so long as he kept humble. “You need something extra to beat those players. I did show that today,” he said.
“But if I manage to keep the same levels of concentration like I did today, same patience, same mental toughness, willing to fight, I’m pretty sure it’s going to go pretty well. But I do have, again, as I said, to stay humble and concentrated on the goals I’ve set this year. I really want it badly. I really want to proceed further in the tournament, yeah, to make myself happy and the people that are cheering for me happy.”
Showing incredible composure for a 20-year-old playing in just his second Grand Slam fourth round, Tsitsipas saved all 12 break points he gave up to the Swiss and was clinical in the riveting final tiebreak.
“It was actually very mental, I would say,” he said. “I could have cracked at any moment but I didn’t because I really wanted it bad. I showed it on the court. Obviously and for sure that mental toughness helped a lot.”