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Australian Open has been left dazzled by the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas

Anxiety tends to spread through tennis when it considers the expected departures of Roger Federer and Andy Murray, and the ages of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Federer’s announcement that he is planning to play the clay-court tournaments this season is taken by some as a possible signal of a long farewell, and the latter pair will turn 32 and 33 this year.

And then along comes Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 20-year-old Greek who will tackle Nadal in the semi-final of the Australian Open. He will be the youngest to have got this far at a Grand Slam since Novak Djokovic here in 2007.

Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates after defeating Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne on Tuesday

The 20-year-old dropped to the floor after sealing the match in a fourth-set tie break

The 20-year-old dropped to the floor after sealing the match in a fourth-set tie break

The emergence of this startling talent – and complete package in terms of application, looks and charisma – provides reassurance that the stock of marquee names will ultimately be replenished.

With the demeanour of an art student and the very modern hobby of producing his own YouTube videos, there seem few limits to what he might achieve.

It was widely expected that in Tuesday’s quarter-final he would fall flat following his dismissal of Federer. These things often happen after big victories, and much had been made of how Federer crumbled to Tim Henman after his initial significant win at Wimbledon over Pete Sampras in 2001.

Instead Tsitsipas was able to carve out a very significant win over Roberto Bautista Agut – the man who might yet go down as Murray’s last ever opponent following their epic on the opening day – and will face Nadal.

The shiny new star also has the knack of producing talking points that accompany his matches.

Tsitsipas booked his place in the semi-finals of the Australian Open after 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 win

Tsitsipas booked his place in the semi-finals of the Australian Open after 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 win

On this occasion it was not just the time violations against the new 25-second shot clock, but also the warning for being coached from his support box, which contains none other than Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been in his box moonlighting from his day job as Serena Williams’ mentor.

But Tsitsipas insisted that it was his father who was the transgressor: ‘All my father/coach said, he told me to drink more, and that was it. That counted as a coaching violation, I didn’t know that.’

Another intriguing aspect about Tsitsipas, as he breaks through in this of all cities with its huge Greek population, is not just the local support he garners, but that he might have been representing Australia if things had worked out differently.

With cousins in Melbourne, it has emerged that when he was younger, and his family were looking for financial support that was thin on the ground in crisis-hit Greece, there was an approach to Tennis Australia to see if there was any mileage in switching allegiance.

It came to nothing and he ended up developing his game partly at Mouratoglou’s academy in Nice, hence the connection with the Frenchman of Greek heritage.

He now faces the daunting prospect of facing Spaniard Rafael Nadal in Thursday's semi-final

He now faces the daunting prospect of facing Spaniard Rafael Nadal in Thursday’s semi-final

‘That’s disappointing I guess for them, but for me, I’m proud to be Greek, representing the blue and white colours of that flag,’ said Tsitsipas.

A shortage of money will now be the least of his concerns, having earned a minimum £512,000 from this fortnight alone. He acknowledged the help that Mouratoglou has given him when the coach is not busy with Williams.

‘He actually isn’t talking much, I will tell you that,’ said the 14th seed. ‘But whatever he says is so on point. That’s kind of a skill, for people to be so direct and so right on what they’re saying one time, not talking too much here and there, making you feel confused.’

Whether he can go further has to be doubted, unless extreme stamina is another of his attributes. All of his five matches have gone to four hard-fought sets, which have included six tiebreaks, and his quarter-final ended 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.

The rock-solid Bautista Agut looked to have been drained by his own spread of long matches, although it was impressive how Tsitsipas handled very different daytime conditions from those in which his late evening win over Federer was played. His game looks suitable for every environment, including Wimbledon, where he has already made the fourth round and is a former junior doubles champion.

Fatigue will not be an issue for Nadal, who has thumped everyone in his path in straight sets and he comfortably beat 21-year-old Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

They have met once before on a hard court, last summer at the Canadian Open, a match which gives Tsitsipas some heart: ‘I felt very close to beating him in Toronto, though the score was 6-2, 7-6. I remember coming back to the locker room and promising to myself to do much better against him next time.’

 

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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