February 17, 2021
Stefanos Tsitsipas is finally fulfilling his potential and that’s fantastic news for Wimbledon 2021.
The statuesque Greek defeated the great Rafael Nadal 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 7-5. The turnaround was extraordinary.
Now Stef plays the dangerous Daniil Medvedev, who hasn’t lost in nineteen matches.
Whatever happens in that key semi-final, you sense there could be a new Grand Slam champion.
Novak Djokovic could still spoil the party but he looks vulnerable this time around after suffering a mystery injury.
We shall see whether Novak’s supreme skill can overcome the inexperienced Aslan Karatsev in their semi-final, and then an even younger opponent in the showpiece.
But it might just be that Djokovic runs out of steam this time around against a truly vibrant adversary in the final.
If that opponent proves to be Tsitsipas, no one could say he doesn’t deserve it and hasn’t risen to the occasion.
Superstar Stefanos is everything tennis needs. Movie-star good looks, supreme athleticism and now a cool nerve to go with it.
You can just imagine London’s Greek community and half of Athens scrambling for tickets to see their hero go again at Wimbledon 2021.
Stef-mania at the All England Club could reach the same heights of frenzy we once saw around the legendary Bjorn Borg.
We have been predicting this for some time. At Wimbledon 2021 it could become a reality.
What Tsitsipas just achieved at the Australian Open is nothing short of sensational.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Nadal was practically wiping the floor with the 22-year-old in the first two sets.
Stefanos was throwing everything at Rafa without any recognisable tactics to support his aggression.
A more controlled strategy and some phenomenal third-set serving kept Tsitsipas in the match.
But Nadal will regret two uncharacteristic overhead mishits in the pivotal third-set tie-break.
From that point on, you could see Tsitsipas grow in confidence. There was a swagger to what he did.
The Stefanos serve suddenly looked invincible and his stroke-play became a free-flowing delight.
Nadal grew visibly more jaded as the match progressed. Maybe that back injury returned to haunt him.
Tsitsipas broke just when it mattered at 5-5 in the fifth. Rafa fought off two match points with typical bravery. He did all he could to try to force a super-tie-break.
But there was to be no first-to-ten. Only indescribable joy for the increasingly consistent underdog.
Tsitsipas reflected later: ‘When I sat on the bench before that final game I whispered to myself: “This is going to be the most difficult game of your life.” And that’s what it proved to be.
‘I showed so much maturity and never gave up. I did it for myself and my country.’
Greek tennis fans will love that patriotic rallying call. No doubt they will respond in their droves at Wimbledon 2021.
But you sense that Tsitsipas will become increasingly adored by the entire world. He just oozes star quality. He could soon be the biggest tennis star out there.
This felt like a changing of the guard. Stefanos would not be denied. This really could be the start of the Tsitsipas era.
For all that, Medvedev must start favourite in their Australian Open semi-final.
Daniil defeated Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 and he will be the fresher of the two survivors coming into the clash of the young guns.
Medvedev said: ‘I’m feeling good to have nineteen wins in succession and I hope to get two more, they’re the most important ones. The crowds are coming back, that’s perfect.’
But the Aussie crowd won’t be able to cheer Ash Barty after the world number one lost to Karolina Muchova. The 25th seed interrupted Barty’s rhythm with a medical time-out and came though to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Now Muchova will face the in-form American Jennifer Brady, who saw off her friend Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
But it’s Stefanos Tsitsipas who is the talk of Melbourne right now.
What can the Greek god become before Wimbledon 2021?
It’s no exaggeration to say that Stefanos Tsitsipas could transcend our sport over the next ten years.