January 20, 2019
Stefanos Tsitsipas could hardly believe what he had done. There was pure joy and a hint of amazement in his glistening eyes.
It didn’t matter whether he could quite take in the enormity of his achievement.
He had believed in himself when the going got tough. That’s what counted.
The 20-year-old Greek saved four set points in the key second set.
He just laughed when he squandered a three-point lead in the resulting tie-break, then set about creating an identical margin once more.
It only took him one of his set points in the breaker to establish parity.
And suddenly all the superiority Federer seemed to have enjoyed up until that point was erased. Time was now on the side of Stefanos.
If Roger Federer loses momentum at his age, he is always going to be in serious trouble.
So it proved, with Tsitsipas the deserving winner, 6-7 (11-13), 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).
‘Nothing compares to this, I am the happiest man on earth right now,’ beamed the new hero with the movie-star looks. ‘Roger Federer is a legend.’
Indeed he is, and the crowd loves him. But they loved Tsitsipas too. They adored his free-flowing game and admired his courage.
Oh, and Melbourne has a massive Greek community too. That helped the underdog.
‘I’ve never heard a crowd so loud,’ Stefanos said.
They talk of the next generation. That is out of date now. The next generation is here. Current. Capturing hearts.
Alexander Zverev won the year-end finals in London. Stefanos Tsitsipas has just beaten the world’s greatest ever player in a Grand Slam.
This will be the glorious year when the young and old clash on the same performance level.
Next year expect the young ones to start to have the upper hand even more regularly.
And the women weren’t to be outdone in the shock stakes. Ashleigh Barty thrilled the Aussie crowd by coming back to defeat Maria Sharapova.
Meanwhile one of the hot favourites for the women’s title, Angelique Kerber, was thrashed 6-0, 6-2 by the little-known Danielle Collins of the USA.
Rafael Nadal restored some sanity to proceedings by defeating Tomas Berdych.
But Roberto Bautista Agut, Andy Murray’s conqueror, beat Marin Cilic to keep his dream tournament alive.
All incredible stuff. Historic, in terms of another big step in the changing of the guard – particularly in the men’s game.
Whatever next? The more we watch the Australian Open, the harder it is to wait for Wimbledon.
But boy, will it be worth the wait!