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Tsitsipas: 'My Mentality Is Different'

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2023

Tsitsipas: ‘My Mentality Is Different’

Greek seeks first Grand Slam title

Stefanos Tsitsipas is a man on a mission at this year’s Australian Open. The Greek has earned straight-sets victories in four of his five matches, while he showed fighting spirit to come through his only major test against Jannik Sinner in the fourth round.

After defeating Jiri Lehecka to reach the semi-finals on Tuesday, the third seed was asked if he has what it takes to lift his maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne. His answer was clear.

“I’m feeling great with my tennis. I don’t think I felt so good in a long time. I will definitely say yes [to winning the title],” Tsitsipas said. “I’ve said it, I’m a different player, playing different. My mentality is different. When I’m out on the court, I don’t really think of negatives, to be honest. I just go out there and play the game.”

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Tsitsipas is playing for a double prize at the hard-court major. If the 24-year-old wins the trophy, he will rise to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time. With the pressure high, some would struggle both physically and mentally. However, Tsitsipas is relishing the challenge.

“There is this one sort of way of looking at tennis that you’re really exhausted after every match. Every single thing you try to do on the court takes a lot of effort. There’s this other version of tennis where you’re doing your job, but you’re enjoying it so much you don’t care if it’s exhausting or not. You’re refreshed by it every single time,” Tsitsipas said.

“I think I’m heading towards more of that lately than the other thing. I’m very happy to be out on the court. I’m very happy to be performing. I’m very happy to hit some good shots, come in. It’s just this whole dynamic that has made me very hungry and has created a lot of desire for me to be playing tennis, wanting to achieve new things.”

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Competing in his fourth Australian Open semi-final, the Greek will aim to reach his maiden final in Melbourne when he plays Karen Khachanov on Friday. The 18th seed moved past Sebastian Korda earlier on Tuesday after the American was forced retire due to a wrist injury.

“It’s a match that I’m looking forward to,” said Tsitsipas, who leads Khachanov 5-0 in their ATP Head2Head series. “Of course, I’m definitely happy with the way I’ve been playing so far. I’m looking ahead for more, for better. Looking to create some magical experiences here in Australia.”

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Steely Tsitsipas Sees Off Lehecka For Australian Open Semi-Final Spot

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2023

Steely Tsitsipas Sees Off Lehecka For Australian Open Semi-Final Spot

Third-seeded Greek faces Khachanov in last four

Grand Slam matches are frequently decided by the finest of margins, and so it was for Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jiri Lehecka on Tuesday at the Australian Open.

The third-seeded Tsitsipas prevailed 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-4 in the pair’s quarter-final clash at Melbourne Park, although the straight-sets scoreline disguised a closely-fought encounter. The 21-year-old Lehecka showed few signs of nerves on his Rod Laver Arena debut, striking confidently from the baseline throughout, but he was unable to match the Greek’s clinical execution at key moments.

“It felt different this time from any other match [this week], but the most important thing is that at the end I found a solution,” said Tsitsipas after moving within two victories of his maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne. “It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult ones that I had so far in the competition.

“I think Jiri had a very good tournament. He is someone who started playing well recently and I wish him the best in the future, because he is a great player.”

The win keeps alive Tsitsipas’ hopes of reaching No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time after the Australian Open. Just like fourth seed and nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, the Greek can leapfrog Carlos Alcaraz into top spot by lifting the trophy at the opening Grand Slam of the year.

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Tsitsipas saved all eight break points he faced in the two-hour, 17-minute encounter with Lehecka, frequently producing precise and powerful serves to escape tricky situations. Solitary breaks in the first and third sets either side of a scintillating tie-break display in the second clinched the win for the World No. 4, who is now 9-0 for the 2023 season as he prepares for his fourth semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park.

“I had to deal with the groundstrokes that were coming off the racquet from the other side of the court much heavier, much deeper,” said Tsitsipas. “So that was a task in which I had to really put my heart out there and give it my best.

“I know the [second-set] tie-break became a very crucial tie-break [for] who was going to get back into the match. The way I saw it, that was my opportunity to really take a massive lead there, and I’m very happy with the way I closed the second set.”

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With the victory, Tsitsipas improved his record in Grand Slam quarter-finals to 6-0. His semi-final opponent will be Karen Khachanov, after the 18th seed earlier led Sebastian Korda 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-0 when the American retired from their quarter-final clash due to a wrist injury.

Despite his defeat, Lehecka can reflect on an impressive run in Melbourne, where he arrived still chasing his first Grand Slam match win. He defeated 21st seed Borna Coric, Christopher Eubanks, 11th seed Cameron Norrie and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime with a series of high-quality displays.

The Czech, who finished his 2022 season on a high by reaching the championship match at the Next Gen ATP Finals, has lept 32 places to No. 39 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as a result of his Melbourne exploits.

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Peaking Djokovic Meets Rublev In Australian Open QFs

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2023

Peaking Djokovic Meets Rublev In Australian Open QFs

Paul faces Shelton in all-American clash

With Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov already through to the Australian Open semi-finals, four men will bid to join them from the bottom half of the draw on Wednesday at Melbourne Park.

Novak Djokovic continues his bid for a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title when he faces Andrey Rublev in the evening session, after unseeded Americans Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton square off during the day on Rod Laver Arena. breaks down the remaining singles quarter-final matchups, as well as the two doubles quarter-finals on the Day 10 schedule.

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[4] Novak Djokovic (SER) vs. [5] Andrey Rublev

Djokovic’s quest for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title has been far from smooth. Plagued by a left hamstring strain suffered en route to the title at an ATP 250 in Adelaide in early January, the Serbian struggled physically during victories against Enzo Couacaud and Grigor Dimitrov in Melbourne.

However, despite concerns, the 35-year-old looked back to his best during his fourth-round win against Alex de Minaur, moving freely as he dropped just five games to reach the quarter-finals.

“I always believe I can go all the way in terms of my tennis. But the way my leg felt before tonight wasn’t giving me too many hopes, so to say, for the entire tournament, to go all the way through. Tonight, I feel that, so I feel positive about it,” said Djokovic following his win against the Australian.

“I don’t know [if it was the best] ever, but definitely the best tennis I’ve played this year, this tournament, so far this season.”

Chasing a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title, Djokovic next turns his attention now turning to fifth seed Rublev. The fourth seed, who will rise to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings if he lifts the trophy in Melbourne, holds a 2-1 ATP Head2Head series lead against the 25-year-old.

Rublev enters the quarter-final clash off the back of a dramatic five-set win against Holger Rune. The World No. 6 saved two match points against the #NextGenATP Dane, rallying from 2-5 in the decider to prevail.

“I never in my life was able to win matches like this,” Rublev said post-match. “This is the first ever time that I won something like this, especially in a very special tournament, the Australian Open, to be in the quarter-finals. So it’s something I will remember for sure all my life. I have no words, I am shaking and happy.”

When Rublev takes to Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday evening, he will be aiming to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final. The 12-time tour-level titlist, who holds a 0-6 record in major quarter-finals, knows what is required if he is to upset Djokovic.

“I know that Novak is very tough player to beat, especially [at] the Slams,” Rublev said. “He has the best experience to win these kind of matches. He’s one of the best in history. The only chance I have is if I play my best tennis, just fight for every ball, and that’s it. That’s the only chance.”

Tommy Paul (USA) vs. Ben Shelton (USA)

Excited but not satisfied — that was Paul’s characterisation of his feelings after advancing to his first Grand Slam quarter-final. The same could be said for Shelton, who left the United States for the first time with “no expectations” for the Australian swing.

Both men have a big opportunity against an unseeded opponent in the biggest match of each player’s career. Paul booked his place in the last eight with a four-set victory against 24th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, while Shelton won his second five-set match of the tournament against countryman J.J. Wolf.

While it will be the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting, they have developed a relationship off the court and practised together at last year’s US Open, where Shelton made his Grand Slam debut as a wild card, which he earned by winning the 2022 NCAA singles title as a Florida Gator.

“He’s been one of the American guys who’s kind of almost taken me under their wing,” the 20-year-old said of Paul. “Kind of helped me navigate some of the early stages of a professional career. He’s been a good friend. I’m excited to get to play him on a big stage like this.”

Shelton and Paul were joined by countryman Korda in the quarter-finals, marking the first time since 2000 that three American men have reached the last eight in Melbourne — and the first time at any Slam since the 2005 US Open. Adding to the historic fortnight for the U.S., the 20-year-old Shelton is the first American man since 2003 Wimbledon years to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final before turning 21.

Paul, 25, is happy to be part of the wave of success for his nation: “We know there’s going to be an American in the semis, so I’m really excited about that,” he said.

The World No. 35 reached the Wimbledon fourth round last season for his previous best major result. He will look to lean on his experience and his returning prowess to disarm his lefty opponent’s biggest weapons: his serve and his forehand. But as far as tactics go, Paul still has some prep work to do before stepping onto the court against a new opponent.

“I would say I know him better as a person than as a player, just because I’ve spent a decent amount of time with him in the locker room,” Paul said of Shelton. “I know his dad [former pro and current Florida head coach Bryan Shelton] from when his dad was at the USTA when I was younger.

“I actually haven’t seen him play very much. This will probably be the first time that I’ll have to watch some film on my opponent in this whole tournament so far. I’ll probably watch his match with J.J. and talk to my coach. I think my coach has watched him play a few times.

“We’ll have to get a game plan going.”

Doubles QFs

Top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski will continue their bid for a first Grand Slam title as a team when they play Australian wild cards Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler. The Dutch-British tandem, who won seven tour-level crowns last season, has performed strongly in Melbourne, dropping just one set en route to the quarter-finals.

In Wednesday’s second doubles quarter-final, eighth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos face Andreas Mies and John Peers. Granollers and Zeballos are aiming to reach the semi-finals in Melbourne for the second consecutive year as a team, while Mies and Peers joined forces at the start of 2023.

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‘Head High & Keep Working’: Korda Eyes Next Steps After Sparkling Melbourne Run

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2023

‘Head High & Keep Working’: Korda Eyes Next Steps After Sparkling Melbourne Run

American reached maiden major quarter-final at Australian Open

Sebastian Korda’s Australian Open campaign may have ended in injury disappointment on Tuesday in Melbourne, but the 22-year-old’s post-match mindset did not reflect that.

“There are a lot of positives,” said Korda, who trailed Karen Khachanov by two sets and a break in their quarter-final clash before retiring with a wrist injury on Rod Laver Arena. “Way more positives than negatives. Today was tough, but hopefully it’s nothing serious and I can take care of it, so I don’t have it in the future.

“[It was] still a great tournament [for me]. My first quarter-final in a Grand Slam. I’m going to go forward with my head high and keep working.”

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Korda had his wrist taped at 3-2 in the second set against Khachanov and struggled to hit his forehand from that point on. He ultimately retired with his opponent leading 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-0, and later revealed it was a recurrence of an issue that he first experienced during his run to the championship match at the Adelaide International 1 in early January.

“I had it a little bit in Adelaide a couple weeks ago, but then it went away,” said the American. “During the matches [in Melbourne], it was completely fine. Then just one kind of mishit return, and it started to bother me a lot of after that.

“I kind of knew what it was right away, right when I hit the return. I kind of felt that spot that I was feeling before. Some forehands I couldn’t even hold the racquet. Volleying was almost impossible for me. So it was a little tough.”

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The unfortunate development ended a stellar run for the 22-year-old at Melbourne Park, where he downed Cristian Garin, Yosuke Watanuki, Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz to reach his maiden Slam quarter-final.

“I mean, you obviously feel good on the court,” said Korda, when asked if he had held genuine title hopes after his series of impressive wins in Melbourne. “You obviously are playing against really good opponents, you’re beating opponents, and you definitely feel good about yourself. You know, the more you play, the better you feel.

“I just was playing some really good tennis. I know probably nobody really wanted to play me right now. I really believed in myself the whole time.”

Of his four wins this fortnight, the straight-sets victory against Medvedev stands out. Korda dismantled a two-time Australian Open finalist with a near-flawless third-round display of all-court tennis, a statement win for a player who has risen six spots to No. 25 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as a result of his Melbourne exploits and set himself up for a new career high.

“[I have] a lot of confidence now,” reflected Korda. “I have always been very close to winning the big matches, but now I’m getting through them. I think that’s a huge lesson I have been learning and going forward I’m really proud of myself.

“Going forward, I’m going to keep on trying to do the same thing, keep on mentally being the same way. You know, I think I can do some really big things in the near future.”

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Korda was one of three Americans to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne, the first time since 2005 that three American men have reached the last eight at a Grand Slam. One of his countrymen, Tommy Paul or #NextGenATP star Ben Shelton, will go one step further, with the pair set to face off in a quarter-final clash on Wednesday.

Now one of 10 American men in the Top 50 of the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, the 22-year-old Korda acknowledged the camaraderie among the current crop of ATP Tour talent from his homeland. He retains hopes for an American champion in Melbourne, despite his own quarter-final exit.

“Of course [tennis is] individual, but we also have the Davis Cup,” said Korda. “I think with the group that we have, I think we can do really well in the near future. We are all really good friends. I’m good friends with Tommy and starting to become good friends with Ben as well.

“I wish them all the best. They’re going to have a great match, and hopefully they can go all the way.”

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Chardy/Martin Seal SF Spot At Australian Open

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2023

Chardy/Martin Seal SF Spot At Australian Open

Nys/Zielinski advance

Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin reached their first Grand Slam semi-final as a team Tuesday when they upset third seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(4) at the Australian Open.

The Frenchmen had not dropped a set en route to the quarter-finals and played with confidence against the 2022 Roland Garros champions, firing in the big moments as they converted three of their four break point chances to advance after one hour and 58 minutes.

Chardy and Martin are making their fourth appearance as a team in Melbourne, with their best result before this year being a third-round run in 2018.

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Their semi-final opponents will be Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski, who defeated Frenchmen Benjamin Bonzi and Arthur Rinderknech 6-1, 6-4 earlier on Tuesday.

The Monegasque-Polish pairing used an early break to command both sets, and they maintained their advantage by saving all three break points against them.

It was the first straight-sets victory of the tournament for Nys and Zielinksi, who battled back from a set down to win each of their first three matches. The team has knocked off two seeds on the way to the semis, including second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in the third round.

The remaining two doubles quarter-finals are set for Wednesday in Melbourne. Top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski face Aussie wild cards Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler, while eight seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos meet 14th seeds Andreas Mies and John Peers.

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Khachanov Seals SF Progress After Late Korda Retirement

  • Posted: Jan 24, 2023

Khachanov Seals SF Progress After Late Korda Retirement

18th seed awaits Tsitsipas or Lehecka

Karen Khachanov advanced to his second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final on Tuesday night after Sebastian Korda retired in the third set of their Australian Open matchup with a right-wrist injury. The 18th seed was leading 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-0 after winning seven straight games following a medical timeout for the American midway through set two.

Khachanov clinched a hard-fought opening set with a daring backhand winner, regrouping with a strong tie-break after failing to serve out the set at 5-3. He then saw three break points go begging early in the second as he stayed on top with his consistent baseline game.

“For sure, back-to-back semi-finals in a Grand Slam feels great,” Khachanov said in an on-court interview. “Obviously not the way you want to finish the match. I think until a certain point it was very competitive, a very good battle. Sebastian beat one of my friends, Daniil [Medvedev], in three sets and won in five sets against Hurkacz. He is playing great tennis.

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

Korda received a medical timeout and had his wrist taped at 3-2 in the second set, and he struggled to control his forehand once he returned to the court in Rod Laver Arena as Khachanov quickly extended his lead.

By reaching the Melbourne quarters, Khachanov became the 10th active male player and the 50th in the Open Era to reach that stage at all four Grand Slams. He has now won his past two major quarter-finals after his run to the semis at the 2022 US Open.

“I think I kind of reinvented myself,” he said of his recent form, more than three years after he reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 8 in 2019. “I always believe in myself but there are always ups and downs, and sometimes when you have a great result it just shows you what you are capable of and then you start to believe more and more. This belief and self-confidence I think appeared much stronger after the US Open. I made a few semi-finals already so I hope to continue that way and to grow as a person and as a sportsman.”

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Khachanov will seek his first Grand Slam final when he faces Stefanos Tsitsipas or Jiri Lehecka, with that quarter-final set for Tuesday evening in Rod Laver Arena.

Korda, playing in his first major quarter-final, was bidding to improve to 4-0 against Top 20 opponents at the Australian Open. Instead, he fell to 14-15 against such players in his tour-level career. The American is now on the brink of becoming a Top 20 player himself, as he has moved up six places this fortnight to No. 25 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, setting himself up for a new career high.

Khachanov’s semi-final run has lifted him seven places to No. 13 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He can rise as high as No. 7 with the title.

The ATP Head2Head between Khachanov and Korda is now level at 2-2, with both of Khachanov’s victories coming at majors, including a five-set win at Wimbledon in 2021.

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