A week ago, all of us expected Swiss tennis star Roger Federer to go all the way and win the Australian Open. Those dreams were shattered and many hearts were broken this Sunday as a twenty year old youngster from Greece sent Roger out of the tournament in a high energy match in the fourth round of the star studded tournament.
The headlines were buzzing with the news that Stefano Tsitsipas caused probably the biggest upsets of this year’s tournament as he beat Federer 6-7(11), 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-6(5) at the Rod Laver Arena. It was a match that pitted the youngest and the oldest players left in the men’s draw. For a player who never made it past the fourth round in a Grand Slam competition, this victory for Tsitsipas was one to remember. While for Federer, who has never lost at the Australian Open since Novak Djokovic ended his 2016 run at the semi final stage; it ends a bid to win three successive titles in Melbourne.
Putting Greece on the tennis map.
Australia is the home to the highest number of Greece nationals, second to Greece itself and they were present in massive numbers to show their support to their country’s rising star. Tsitsipas’s win sparked delirium among the large number of Greeks in and around the Rod Laver Arena. He’s already created some history after he became the first Greek player to win a title on the ATP tour in Stockholm and thus reaching a career-high ranking of 15.
And with every step forward that Tsitsipas takes, he is writing history for Greece as he now is the first Greek player ever to reach beyond the Round of 16 of a Grand Slam.
Where did it go wrong for Federer?
Tsitsipas showed immense resilience and great character as he came from a set down to beat the Swiss star. Federer had a lot of chances throughout the match but failed to convert any of the twelve break points as Tsitsipas went through the entire match without dropping a game on his serve. Although he was on the back foot for most of the crucial second set, he fought back and took the set to a tie break and went on to win it 7-3.
As the match progressed, the youngster seemed to show signs of cramps as he had to request for a trainer in the third set but that hardly seemed to slow him down as his movement was just as smooth as it was in the first set. Tsitsipas had some immense energy as he paced across the court with ease and gave back all he had against Federer, with some hard and power packed hitting.
Federer, on the other hand, was clearly nowhere at his best and he would definitely rue his chances after he failed to convert any of the twelve break points he had against Tsitsipas over the course of the high energy contest between the two which wasn’t short of some colossal range of shots from both ends of the court.
Finishing the match in style.
Tsitsipas showed some great amount of calmness and composure which was extraordinary for such a young talent and this was clearly evident in the final tie break amid some inexorable tension. When he was given a match point after Federer slapped a forehand long, Tsitsipas converted it clinically, thus forcing a backhand error from the Swiss to send shockwaves in the tennis world and announce himself on one of the game’s biggest stages.
He realised the magnitude of what he had just done and that’s when he raised his arms in triumph and sent a huge roar towards the terraces, bringing tears of joy in the eyes of his brother who was seated in the player’s box.
What did the players have to say about it?
Watching Tsitsipas defeat Federer, it was clearly discernible that the Greek wonder kid had been playing close attention to the Swiss great when he was just six years old. In his courtside interview after the match, this is what he had to say: “I’m the happiest man right now. I cannot describe it.”
He said that the victory meant so much to him because he grew up watching Federer as his idol.
“Roger is a legend of our sport. So much respect for him.” He said.
“I have been analysing him since the age of six. It was a dream come true for me just to being on Rod Laver (Arena), facing him. And winning at the end, there is no way I can describe it.”
Federer admitted that he had lost to a better player.
“I lost to a better player who was playing very well tonight,” he said.
“He hung in there, gave himself chances at some point, and stayed calm. It’s not always easy, especially for younger guys. Credit to him for taking care of that,” said Federer after the match.
The Greek looked every bit the younger version of the Swiss all time great, right down to the flowing locks and big serve and forehand. “He has a one handed backhand and I used to have long hair, too. Yeah, so maybe a little bit, sure,” said Federer, when he was asked if he saw himself in Tsitsipas.
Changing of guard?
This defeat may have been a similar one to the classic encounter between Federer and Pete Sampras when the then young Swiss defeated the American legend in the Wimbledon round of 16. After the match, Tennis legend John McEnroe said that we were “watching the changing of guard” but this was met by a stern reply from Federer.
“I’ve been hearing this story for the past ten years. From that standpoint, nothing new here,” said Federer, who still has a lot of magic to be woven.
Tsitsipas will be high on confidence after this stunning victory and will play 23rd seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarter finals.