Unbeaten Tsitsipas Left It All On The Court

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: Jay Town/Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, February 11, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

After Stefanos Tsitsipas completed his four-hour and 32-minute heroic victory against Aussie favorite Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round of the Australian Open Thursday, the Rod Laver Arena crowd showed their appreciation for both of the battle-tested competitors. They had witnessed something special on Day Four of the fortnight Down Under.

“I just want to go for an ice bath right now, that’s all I’m thinking,” said the World No. 6 Tsitsipas, who remained undefeated in the young 2021 season, as he talked to the press afterward.

“Thanasi is a great competitor and a great fighter. It was very difficult facing him today.”

Tsitsipas, who was stymied as he tried to close out the match during the 10th game of the hour-long fourth set, endured through an exhausting fifth set as well and finally won 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-4, against the 267th-ranked Aussie wild card. Between them, they fought back and forth through 354 points.

“[It was a] great match towards the very end, and I fought like a lion,” said the fifth-seeded Tsitsipas. “I fought like a real warrior out there, and it was an amazing ending with lots of emotion and great spirit.”

Next, Tsitsipas will face Mikael Ymer, 22, the 2019 NextGen finalist from Sweden, in Saturday’s third round. Ymer, who was on court for more than three hours Thursday, came from a set down to beat 17-year-old rising Spanish NextGen star Carlos Alcaraz, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (5).

At age 22, the World No. 6 Tsitsipas is undoubtedly Greece’s most successful men’s tennis player. However, Kokkinakis, a South Australian with Greek roots who is currently ranked 267th, technically might be the second. He’s just 24 with unlimited potential, but because of injuries he’s played just 73 tour-level matches since turning pro in 2013. Kokkinakis’ 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win during Tuesday’s first round against South Korea’s  Soonwoo Kwon was his first main draw match win at the Australian Open since 2015. He’s a crowd pleaser, not only with his native Australians but also with Greeks, too.

“He wasn’t able to play all these years due to injuries that he had, and it was a big shame because we were missing someone who was not there with us on tour,” said Tsitsipas, who hit 78 winners and withstood the firing squad of Kokkinakis, who hit 23 service aces during their Thursday match that began in the mid-afternoon sunshine and ended at 7:26 p.m., delaying the start of the night session of Rod Laver Arena. “I’m very happy to see him back competing at a very high level.”

Tsitsipas continued to gush his praise for Kokkinakis: “I think he has a huge forehand, [a] very good serve. All the potential is there. I really hope he stays injury-free, because it can be very frustrating. I have dealt with it, and I know it’s very difficult mentally to go through things like this. I just wish him good health and that he can compete an entire year without any pain or anything bothering him.”

Meanwhile, back to Tsitsipas, who reached the Melbourne semifinals in 2019 after he beat Roger Federer and also was a semifinalist last year at Roland Garros. It’s reasonable to ask this question: Can the Greek free spirit break down another barrier and reach a major final? Time will tell.

As Tsitipas readied to leave Rod Laver Arena for his ice bath, he signed the court-side camera lens “Young, wild and free,” which seem applicable for not only Tsitsipas but also Ymer and Alcaraz – even Kokkinakis.

During his post-match press conference, Tsitsipas explained it this way: “I think we’re a generation of great players. We have many different players, ones that stay back, ones that come to the net. There is so much variety, there’s so much diversity among us.”

Around Melbourne Park

Art in the park

Great sportsmanship by Ajla and Simona

Rafael Nadal up close 

Competitors on the courts, friends off it

A few words from Carlos Alcaraz

The sun keeps on shining for Johanna Konta

Another great day at Melbourne Park

See you on Friday!