Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Australian Open final despite ‘egregious’ errors against Karen Khachanov

Greece’s pseudo-Australian Stefanos Tsitsipas is through to the final of his ‘home’ grand slam 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6 after an impressive win over Russian No. 18 Karen Khachanov at Friday afternoon’s Australian Open – 7, (6-8), 6-3.

The charismatic 24-year-old, who is adored by Melbourne-based Greek fans who flocked to support him on his run to the final, endeared himself to Australian crowds during the tournament, twice hinting at a possible move Down Under to the future and consistently interjected attempted Australian slang during his entertaining on-pitch post-match interviews.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Victoria Azarenka lashes out at journalists at a press conference.

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Tsitsipas will now wait to find out who he will face in the decider and while he may not be the bookies favorite if nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic secures his place in the final as expected, he will be among the bookies be fans .

After his fourth attempt in the Australian Open semifinals, Tsitsipas will play in his first Australian Open final, following in the footsteps of Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, who was treated like their own by Greek fans during his run.

If he won on Sunday, he would rise to world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

“I like this number,” he said after the game.

“It’s all about you. It’s unique. It’s one.

“Those are the moments I worked hard for; Being able to play endgames like this, endgames that mean more than just the endgames.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is playing out in his second Grand Slam final. Credit: Markus Kolbe/Getty Images

“It’s a Grand Slam final, I’m fighting for first place, it’s a childhood dream to conquer this place one day. I’m close, I’m glad this opportunity arose here in Australia and not elsewhere because this is a place that matters (to me).

“So let’s do it guys! Let’s go!”

The two heavyweights traded blows in a roller-coaster first set that saw four breaks of serve and a dominant tiebreak from the Greek.

Tsitsipas grabbed the first break and consolidated it in the following game to give himself a 3-1 lead but returned it straight and the pair stood at a 3-3 patch.

The No. 3 looked to continue with another break of serve again, but Khachanov equalized the score again at 5-5 and suddenly a tie-break beckoned.

When a costly rearfoot error – already his second of the set – cost Tsitsipas his first serve at 0:15 in game 11 of the set and his subsequent second serve landed long for a double fault, his opener hopes hung by a thread. But he bounced back to win the game and when Khachanov held at love in the following game, the two had to go into a tiebreak.

Dominating the tiebreak, Tsitipas gave himself five chances to win the set with a 6-1 lead but needed just two to win the tiebreak 7-2.

Stefanos Tsitsipas will be a crowd favorite on Sunday no matter who he plays against. Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

However, the Greek’s insistence on using the back foot to flirt with the invisible dividing line behind the baseline continued to threaten to cause problems. He injured a third and fourth time in the second set, leaving commentators stunned.

“There’s no need to be that close to the center line. He’s fast enough to look for a forehand. He doesn’t have to play the millimeters,” said Jim Courier.

“Tsitsipas has such a beautiful serving movement and he’s so quick to get around to hit forehand. There is absolutely no reason for him to bring the service line into play in deuce court.

“It just doesn’t make sense. You don’t gain an advantage by doing this. I do not get it.”

Commenting from the bunker just behind Tsitsipas’ backfoot, Courier was keen to spot a rule violation even when the referees didn’t.

But even two points later, when he was well over the line, he couldn’t get away with it.

Tsitsipas was clearly over the line. Credit: Nine.

“That was outrageous,” Courier said when a repeat of the infraction was shown.

“That’s a terrible camera angle. you can’t see it But when you get the straight-line camera angle, look how far over the line it was. Half his foot crossed the line.”

The minor rule violations didn’t seem to shake him though, earning the only break of the second set and holding on to a stylish 6-4 win.

It didn’t take long for the crowd’s favorite to take the lead in the all-important third set. It took him three chances to do that, but he wasn’t able to beat the Russian until the third game of the set to take a 2-1 lead.

“In the second semi-final tonight we’re going to talk a lot about how much more aggressive Novak Djokovic has been with his groundstrokes this tournament, especially when he’s in the lead. Stefanos Tsitsipas channels his inner Novak here in the third sentence. He’s picking up strong,” Courier said as Tsitsipas consolidated his break of serve to take a 3-1 lead.

As the third set progressed, things looked set to write for the favorite to claim a straight set win, but Khachanov still had some battle left.

Karen Khachanov fought gallantly in the third set. Credit: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Serving for the match, a nervous Tsitsipas allowed himself to be dazzled by the bright lights of the beckoning final during a rarely shaky service game.

At the break point, Tsitsipas landed an overhead smash that had been like pea shelling for him for the first two and a half hours of the game, spraying it wildly and suddenly a few yards beyond the touchline, a resurgent Khachanov breathed life back into it.

The Russian held serve to love, forcing Tsitsipas to stay in the third set, which he did, and the pair had to settle for a tie-break again.

As the breathless crowd found their voice in the closing stages of the third set, Tsitsipas couldn’t dispel his lingering nerves and coughed up a brief pause to lose 6-8 in an epic top-order tie-break.

It didn’t matter, however, as the number 3 rediscovered the power that gave him a two-set to love lead in a match-winning third set.

He grabbed the early break and finished it with a series of impenetrable holds at love to finish the set 6-3.

Aryna Sabalenka downplays “impressive” forehand speed.

Aryna Sabalenka downplays “impressive” forehand speed. Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Australian Open final despite ‘egregious’ errors against Karen Khachanov

James Brien

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