In a rare turn of events, fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas was left speechless on Wednesday night at Rod Laver Arena.
Hours later after his epic quarter-final battle, the usually eloquent Greek player was still struggling to put into words exactly what he accomplished against Rafael Nadal inside Rod Laver Arena: Down two sets against the World No. 2, Tsitsipas rallied to take the third set in a tie break before coming back from the brink to win 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-5.
“I have no words to describe what has just happened on the court, my tennis speaks for itself,” said Tsitsipas in his on-court interview. “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.”
With the victory, Tsitsipas earned his second semi-final berth in Melbourne, and added his name to some elite company. He became only the second player after Fabio Fognini at the 2015 US Open to recover from two sets down to beat Nadal at a Grand Slam.
“The thing is that I wasn’t really thinking about a lot of things,” Tsitsipas told press afterward. “Nothing was going through my head. How would I describe myself? Nirvana. Just, like, there. Playing, not thinking.
“I was mainly focused on each single serve, each single shot. I think at the very [end of the] third set I changed [a] few things… I may have put my brain a little bit, I brainstormed and I said, ‘What is going wrong, why is it not working my way?’ But then it just took off by itself.
“I didn’t really have too much to think of. I think that’s the way I feel it. I just played more flawless… I played with no care, and that increased the level of tennis that I put out there.”
Wait. The thinker @steftsitsipas without….thoughts? 🧘♂️
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 17, 2021
But as is the nature of tennis, Tsitsipas’ brain won’t have much time to process what would be a career-defining moment for most other players. Standing between the Greek player and a shot at a maiden Grand Slam title will be fourth seed Daniil Medvedev.
It will be a tough matchup for Tsitsipas for more than just his 1-5 win-loss record in their ATP Head2Head. Medvedev will come into their Friday semi-final relatively fresher after cooling off the red-hot Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 during the day match.
“I can see that maybe as I got the opportunity to play longer, feel the court, understand the environment that I’m in,” Tsitsipas said. “So that could probably be seen as something positive.
On the other hand, okay, I might have spent a bit more time on the court, put my body in more stress and difficult tasks to complete, but overall I feel pretty well.
“I don’t feel completely exhausted. I think with experience I have realised how to preserve my energy and when I really have to put in the hard work in the match.”
Tsitsipas also will be looking to finally get over the last-four hump and reach his first major championship match. Tsitsipas has been to the semi-finals twice, falling to Novak Djokovic at 2020 Roland Garros, and to Nadal in 2019 at Melbourne Park. Medvedev, on the other hand, will come armed with the experience of having reached the 2019 US Open final.
“Medvedev is going to be [a] difficult task,” Tsitsipas said. “I played him last year at the Nitto [ATP Finals]. It was a good match from my side. He’s in very good shape, playing good tennis, playing accurate, playing simple.
“[I] might have said in the past that he plays boring, but I don’t really think he plays boring. He just plays extremely smart and outplays you. He’s somebody I really need to be careful with and just take my chances and press.”