Novak Djokovic had put the Australian Open at risk and made other tennis players “look like fools” after travelling to Australia unvaccinated, world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas said Thursday.
The Serbian world number one, top seed and defending champion is looking to secure a 10th Australian Open title at Melbourne Park — it gets underway next Monday — and an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam crown.
But the vaccine-sceptic’s fate remains uncertain with Australia’s government pondering whether to revoke his visa again and throw him out of the country for breaking Covid protocols.
Defending champion Naomi Osaka stretched her Grand Slam win streak to 16 matches on Monday at the US Open while Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas struggled past Andy Murray in five sets.
Osaka, seeking her third US Open crown in four years, defeated 87th-ranked Czech Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-1 at a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium to book a second-round matchup with Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic.
“It feels kind of crazy to play in front of everyone again,” Osaka said. “I feel really comfortable here. I’m just glad I won.”
Osaka beat Bouzkova in their only prior meeting in the first round of this year’s Australian Open on the way to her fourth Grand Slam title.
The 23-year-old Japanese star could become the first back-to-back US Open women’s champion since Serena Williams, out this year with a torn hamstring, won her third in a row in 2014.
Osaka’s major win streak includes her most recent US and Australian Open wins and a first-round win at this year’s French Open before withdrawing over mental health issues.
Osaka, who lit the cauldron at the Tokyo Olympics, gave an Olympic pin to a young girl in the same venue where she won last year’s title when fans were banned due to Covid-19.
“It felt quite lonely for me,” she said. “So I’m quite glad to see little kids in the audience and grown ups too. The energy here is unmatched.”
Osaka broke Bouzkova in the 10th game of the first set when the Czech netted a backhand, the broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set on the way to victory in 93 minutes.
Tsitsipas outlasted Britain’s Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, by 2-6, 7-6 (9/7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after four hours and 49 minutes in surroundings more like an intense second-week showdown than a curtain-raiser for the fortnight.
“To have an electric atmosphere out here is something we’ve been waiting for,” Tsitsipas said.
Two-time Olympic champion Murray, ranked 112th lost for the first time in 15 first-round US Open matches.
“It didn’t come easy,” Tsitsipas said.
Tsitsipas, this year’s French Open runner-up, took a long break before the final set, frustrating Murray, who surrendered a break in the opening game. Delay tactics brought a frosty reception at the net after the match.
“I have zero time for that stuff at all and I lost respect for him,” Murray said. “It’s nonsense. And he knows it, as well.”
Tsitsipas, who plays Frenchman Adrian Mannarino next, said he followed ATP rules on breaks and medical timeouts, even as Murray questioned the length and timing.
“I’m playing by the rules and sticking to what the ATP says is fair,” said Tsitsipas. “Then the rest is fine.”
In the second-set tie-breaker, Murray slipped at the net and fell because his sweat-soaked shoes were wet and he didn’t have another pair. Murray missed out on two set points and the 23-year-old Greek star won five of the next six points to grab the set and level the match.
“The shoes got so wet that at the end of the set, I was slipping basically and was losing balance,” Murray said. “That was my bad. It was an important moment in the match.”
Murray broke in the second game of the third set and held out from there, but Tsitsipas took the last two sets to advance.
– Crowd energy returns –
Spectators had to show proof of vaccination to attend but they brouht energy back to Ashe.
“Playing without fans here was brutal,” 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens said. “Having these fans out and the energy, the atmosphere, it brings a lot back to tennis.”
Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and Stephens each won to reach the second round.
“You feel the energy. You feel alive on court,” Halep said. “Hopefully it will stay like that forever.”
Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev defeated Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 for his 200th career match win and 160th win on hardcourts.
Women’s second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus outlasted Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-0 while Russian men’s fifth seed Andrey Rublev ousted 221st-ranked Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
Stefanos Tsitsipas shocked six-time champion Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4 to reach the final of the ATP Finals in his tournament debut on Saturday.
The Greek sixth seed, 17 years younger than his 38-year-old opponent, beat the Swiss at the Australian Open but had fallen to him twice since then.
Federer was unrecognisable from the player who dominated Novak Djokovic in his final round-robin match, struggling on serve and hitting a total of 26 unforced errors compared with just five against the Serbian.
But Tsitsipas belied his years with a performance full of confidence and grit, saving 11 out of 12 breakpoints during the match.
“I’m so proud of myself today, great performance and once again the people were great,” he said.
“I really enjoyed myself on the court and sometimes in matches like these, you wonder how you recover from difficulties and breakpoint down.
“It is a mental struggle and I’m proud how many I saved today, I was trying not to give an easy time to Roger, he was playing well.”
Coming into the match, the Greek 21-year-old led the tournament in service games won, with 35 out of 37.
Tsitsipas conceded a breakpoint in his first game as cries of “Let’s go, Roger, let’s go” rang around London’s O2 Arena but he survived the scare and broke Federer in the next game, taking advantage of two missed overheads from the Swiss.
Thereafter it was a case of what might have been for Federer, who dropped just six points on his serve in the first set and saw a whopping six break points come and go.
Tsitsipas was forced to dig deep to see out the set in a dramatic 13-minute final game in which he saved two break points and needed seven set points to close it out 6-3.
Federer was in deep trouble when Tsitsipas broke him to love in the third game of the second set but he finally made a breakpoint count — his 10th, to level at 2-2.
Undaunted, Tsitsipas, dominating rallies from the back of the court, broke again straight away with a forehand cross-court winner for a 3-2 lead.
At 5-4 down Federer knew he had to break Tsitsipas for only the second time in the match.
The Greek slipped to 15-40 down but Federer again could not take advantage, spraying a forehand out to give his opponent a match point and he won with a thundering ace.
A year ago, Tsitsipas won the Next Gen ATP Finals. Now, on his tournament debut, he is one match away from winning the season-ending event, featuring the year’s best eight players.
Tsitsipas first broke into the top 100 of the ATP rankings only 25 months ago.
He will play either defending champion Alexander Zverev or fifth seed Dominic Thiem in Sunday’s final.
Novak Djokovic said he played “one of his best matches of the season” to thrash seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-1, 6-2 on Friday and set up a Paris Masters semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov.
The 32-year-old, battling Rafael Nadal for the year-end world number one spot, dispatched Greek star Tsitsipas in only 58 minutes.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion went into the match with a 2-1 losing record against Tsitsipas, but put the young world number seven in his place with a commanding victory.
“I played one of the best matches of the season,” said Djokovic. “I prepared myself very well for this match.
“I lost to Stefanos about three weeks ago in Shanghai. And obviously I went through the videos and understanding on what I did well, what I didn’t do so well, what I can do better.”
Djokovic will be usurped by Nadal at the top of the rankings next week, but can ensure the fight to be the best player at the end of the year reaches the ATP Tour Finals in London by winning a record-extending fifth title at Bercy.
The crushing defeat ended Tsitsipas’ run of three consecutive semi-finals and dealt a blow to his confidence ahead of his maiden appearance at the season-ending championships, which start on November 10.
Djokovic holds an 8-1 winning head-to-head record against Dimitrov, who saw off unseeded Chilean Cristian Garin 6-2, 7-5 earlier in the day.
“He (Dimitrov) has been one of the best talents we had in the sport in the last decade,” said Djokovic, who is bidding to tie Pete Sampras’ record of finishing as the year-end number one on six occasions.
“He’s been playing some terrific tennis this week… I don’t play too bad myself, so it’s going to be for sure a good one.”
Tsitsipas made a nightmare start, as back-to-back double faults gifted his illustrious opponent a break in just the second game.
Djokovic had been struggling with illness earlier in the week and laboured past Corentin Moutet and Kyle Edmund in his first two matches, but was at his irrepressible best en route to a 5-0 lead.
Tsitsipas, encouraged by a packed crowd, avoided a first-set bagel by saving three set points, only for Djokovic to serve it out in the following game after a mere 28 minutes on court.
The 21-year-old’s misery was compounded by a time violation in the third game of the second set, and Serbian Djokovic duly broke his serve.
Another break to love helped the top seed forge 5-1 in front, and Tsitsipas’ humiliation was complete when he carved a forehand wide on match point.
Former world number three Dimitrov last reached the semis at a Masters tournament in Monte Carlo in 2018, but has rediscovered his form in recent weeks after heading into the US Open ranked 78th.
The Bulgarian became the lowest-ranked player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since 2008 at Flushing Meadows, before losing to Daniil Medvedev.
Dimitrov has now won three consecutive matches in straight sets at Bercy, where he had lost in the third round in each of the previous six years.
World number 42 Garin, playing in his first Masters quarter-final, served for the second set at 5-4, but the 28-year-old Dimitrov reeled off three straight games to claim an impressive victory.
Later Friday, second seed Nadal takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga while Gael Monfils, who is still in contention for a place at the ATP Finals, faces Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.
Relentless Rafael Nadal will aim to snuff out the challenge of young giant-killer Frances Tiafoe Tuesday, while young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas has eyes on a maiden Australian open semi-final after knocking out Roger Federer.
The Australian Open hits the quarter-final stage in Melbourne with 17-time Grand Slam winner Nadal emerging as a strong title favourite.
The Spaniard has not dropped a set and demolished former world number four Tomas Berdych 6-0, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) in the fourth round in an awesome display.
Lying in his path is American Tiafoe who has already accounted for the fifth seed Kevin Anderson and become a fans’ favourite with his exuberant LeBron James style celebrations and inspiring life story.
The son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, Tiafoe turned 21 on Sunday and celebrated his birthday by beating 20th seed Grigor Dimitrov to reach a Slam quarter-final for the first time.
“I wasn’t a normal tennis story,” he told reporters, revealing he had already managed to buy his mother a house in Maryland and help his janitor dad.
“The beginning of my career I was trying to do everything for my family. Obviously now I put them in a great place. Now I’m trying to do it for me.
“I’m so excited to play Rafa. We’re going to have some fun, going to have some long rallies.”
Nadal said he was aware of the young world number 39 and would be on his guard against a man he had never played.
“He has everything. He’s quick. He serves well. Very quick forehand” said the 2009 champion who is aiming to become the only man in the Open era to win all four Grand Slams at least twice.
‘He’s dangerous’: Nadal
“He’s a very dynamic player, aggressive one. Of course, he’s dangerous. He’s in quarter-finals.”
Tsitsipas was thrust into the global spotlight after ending double defending champion Federer’s quest for a record seventh Australian Open.
The gifted 20-year-old has already secured his place in history as the first Greek to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final.
He held off 12 break points before flummoxing the Swiss master in four sets.
“This win is a good milestone, let’s say good first step to something bigger,” said the exciting 2018 NextGen Champion.
“I’m really pumped and excited to be competing in the quarter-finals. I’m really waiting for that moment.”
He faces another Spaniard, the in-form Roberto Bautista Agut.
The 22nd seed beat Novak Djokovic on his way to the title in Doha earlier this month before ending Andy Murray’s hopes, and possibly his career, in the first round in Melbourne.
Bautista Agut is looking to extend his 2019 win streak to 10 matches and a potential all-Spanish semi-final against Nadal.
“Tsitsipas is doing very well,” said Bautista Agut. “He’s one of the top players in the world. He will be one of the best, for sure. He’s playing at a very high level.”