Stefanos Tsitsipas to tackle Karen Khachanov in Australian Open semi-finals

Greek third seed beats Czech surprise package Jiri Lehecka in straight sets at Melbourne Park

Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates after beating Jiri Lehecka in the Australian Open quarter-finals. AFP
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Stefanos Tsitsipas surged into the Australian Open semi-finals after a straight-sets win over Jiri Lehecka on Tuesday.

The Greek third seed secured a 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 victory against the 21-year-old Czech, who had never won a Grand Slam match before arriving in Australia.

Tsitsipas, 24, will face the Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov on Friday as he looks to seal his first major crown, having lost in the semi-finals at Melbourne Park for the past two years.

“It felt different this time from any other match [this week], but the most important thing is that at the end I found a solution,” said Tsitsipas in his on-court interview. “It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult ones that I had so far in the competition.

“I think Jiri had a very good tournament. He is someone who started playing well recently and I wish him the best in the future, because he is a great player.”

Lehecka, ranked 71, warned Tsitsipas before the match he wanted revenge after losing to him in the semi-finals at Rotterdam last year.

But the 21-year-old, who beat 11th seed Cameron Norrie and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the last eight, was immediately under pressure.

Tsitsipas worked five break points on his opening service game and got over the line when the Czech smacked a backhand volley wide.

He consolidated for a 3-0 lead and, with his strong first serve offering Lehecka few opportunities to strike back, coasted to the first set in 36 minutes, sealing it with an ace.

Tsitsipas saved five break points to hold in a crucial third game of the second set as Lehecka came alive and began applying pressure.

Both players dug in and it went with serve to a tiebreak, where the Greek kept his cool to take an early advantage that he never gave up.

In a close third set, Tsitsipas's second double fault of the night handed Lehecka three break points in game seven. But he saved them all to hold, pumping the air in celebration.

With the bit between his teeth, the Greek star dialled up the pressure as Lehecka served to stay in the contest and a cross-court backhand earned him a match point, which he converted.

Earlier, Khachanov reached a second consecutive slam semi-final after Sebastian Korda retired with a wrist injury when trailing 7-6, 6-3, 3-0.

The 22-year-old American has been one of the stories of the tournament, defeating Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz to reach a first slam quarter-final 25 years after his father Petr lifted the trophy.

But he took a medical timeout after five games of the second set to have his wrist taped and called it quits after losing the next seven games.

Korda said of the injury: “I had it a little bit in Adelaide a couple weeks ago but then it went away. During the matches, it was completely fine. Then, just one kind of mis-hit return and it started to bother me a lot after that.

“Some forehands, I couldn’t even hold the racket. Volleying was almost impossible for me. So it was a little tough.”

Updated: January 24, 2023, 2:15 PM
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