Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece celebrates. Aaron Favila

Tsitsipas powers past Lehecka into Australian Open semi-finals

Khachanov also through to last four after Korda retires.

LAST UPDATE | 24 Jan 2023

STEFANOS TSITSIPAS BLASTED blasted into a fourth Australian Open semi-final and a showdown with Karen Khachanov as he zeroes in on a maiden Grand Slam title.

The Greek third seed proved too powerful for unseeded Czech Jiri Lehecka on Rod Laver Arena, storming home 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.

He will face the Russian 18th seed Khachanov for a place in his first Melbourne Park final, having crashed in the semis three times previously, including in the past two years.

Russia’s Khachanov booked his place when American Sebastian Korda retired hurt with a wrist injury while trailing 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 3-0.

“It felt different this time from any other match and the most important thing in the end is that I found a solution,” said Tsitsipas, who will become world number one should he win the title.

Novak Djokovic can also achieve the feat if he does the same.

“It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult so far in the competition,” added Tsitsipas, 24.

“Jiri had a very good tournament, he’s started playing very well recently. He’s a great player.

“I had to deal with his groundstrokes, which were coming over the net much heavier and deeper, so that was a task where I really had to put my heart out there and give it my best,” he added.

Lehecka, ranked 71, warned Tsitsipas before the match he wanted revenge after losing to him in the semi-finals at Rotterdam last year.

But the 21-year-old, who beat 11th seed Cameron Norrie and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the last eight, was immediately under the gun.

Tsitsipas worked five break points on his opening service game and got over the line when the Czech smacked a backhand volley wide.

He consolidated for a 3-0 lead and with his strong first serve offering Lehecka few opportunities to strike back, coasted to the first set in 36 minutes, sealing it with an ace.

Tsitsipas saved five break points to hold in a crucial third game of the second set as Lehecka came alive and began applying pressure.

Both players dug in and it went with serve to a tiebreak, where the Greek kept his cool to take an early advantage that he never gave up.

In a close third set, Tsitsipas’s second double fault of the night handed Lehecka three break points in game seven.

But he saved them all to hold, pumping the air in celebration.

With the bit between his teeth, the Greek star dialed up the pressure as Lehecka served to stay in the contest and a crosscourt backhand earned him a match point which he converted.


Earlier, Karen Khachanov reached his second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final on Tuesday when Sebastian Korda retired hurt at the Australian Open, ending the young American’s dream of emulating his father Petr’s 1998 title run.

Khachanov now plays Stefanos Tsitsipas for a spot in Sunday’s final.

Victory equals the 26-year-old’s best performance at a major after his semi-final run during last September’s US Open, where he lost to Norway’s Casper Ruud.

The Olympic silver medallist, who has won four Tour-level titles, came into the match with far greater experience at this stage of a Grand Slam than Korda, having reached the last eight at all four majors. In contrast, the 22-year-old Korda was in his first quarter-final.

“I think until a certain point it was very competitive, a very good battle,” said Khachanov.

“He beat my friend Daniil (Medvedev) in three sets and won in five sets against Hurkacz so you know he is playing great. So applause to him.

“I’m feeling good to be honest and really happy about the way I’m competing,” he added. “I’m looking forward to the semi-finals here in Australia for the first time.”

Khachanov, who reached a career-high ranking of eight in 2019, opened with a serve to love, then reeled off an easy break to go 2-0 clear with Korda’s early nerves apparent.

The American finally got off the mark to hold for 3-1 when Khachanov flayed a cross-court forehand wide.

But with the Russian blasting down aces and winning more than 90 percent on his first serve, the chances to break back were few and far between.

However, a wayward backhand as Khachanov was serving for the set handed Korda his first break point opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands.

It went to a tiebreak, where Khachanov held his nerve, sealing it on his third set point with a blistering backhand down the line.

Korda needed treatment on his right, serving, wrist at 3-2 in the second set. He returned with it strapped but was immediately broken.

The Russian consolidated and with Korda struggling, flexing his wrist between points, he broke again to take a two-set lead.

Korda left the court at the changeover, clearly in trouble. He continued but lost the opening 10 points of the third set before retiring.

– © AFP 2023

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