Stefanos Tsitsipas said he ‘flew like a little bird’ after coming back from two sets down to defeat Rafael Nadal 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday evening.
It was only the second time in Grand Slam history that Nadal, eyeing a record-breaking 21st major, had lost the match after being two sets up.
“I have no words to describe what has just happened on the court, my tennis speaks for itself,” said Tsitsipas after clinching victory in five hours and five minutes.
"It was epic. It was everything I ever dreamed of."
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 17, 2021
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to fight at such a high level and leave it out on the court. I started very nervously. I don’t know what happened after the third set. I flew like a bird and everything worked for me.”
The Greek was handed a route back into the match as Nadal committed a series of uncharacteristic errors at the start of the third-set tie-break.
Nadal entered the tie-break in top form, having won 24 of his 25 points on serve in the set but he could not close the match.Nadal misfired two overhead shots and dumped a forehand into the net during the ‘breaker.
The 22-year-old took his opportunity and turned the match in his favour with aggressive baseline play.
“I was just there….playing not thinking. I was thinking a little bit but I was mainly focussed on each single serve. Each single shot, Tsitsipas told reporters.
“In the third set set, I changed a few things, I changed the (shot) patterns, I took a little bit more time, I think that helped. I wanted to stay on court a little bit longer. These things kept adding up.”
The Greek avenged his harrowing straight sets defeat by Nadal in the 2019 semi-finals, when he was left shell-shocked by the Spaniard’s complete dominance. And it felt like déjà vu for most of the first three sets.
Tsitsipas, who had scored a coming-of-age victory over Roger Federer in 2019 at the Rod Laver Arena, channeled that belief and aggression to hit past Nadal.
Tsitsipas won 84 per cent of first-serve points (36/43) and struck 27 winners in the final two sets.
The only person, apart from Tsitsipas, to have beaten the World No 2 after losing the first two sets is Fabio Fognini. The temperamental Italian claimed a 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Nadal at the 2015 US Open.
“Of course (I’m) sad. I lost a match in quarter-finals of an event that means a lot to me,” Nadal told reporters.
“I tried my best in every single moment … I think I stayed positive all the time during the match, fighting, and it was not enough. Sometimes it’s enough, today was not enough.”
Tsitsipas will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be his third Grand Slam semifinal, and second at the Australian Open. Medvedev beat fellow Russian 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 in the earlier quarterfinals and has a 5-1 win-loss record over the Greek.