03:15 PM GMT January 20, 2019
Stefanos Tsitsipas faced four set points to trail Roger Federer by two sets at the Australian Open on Sunday, but rallied in dramatic fashion to defeat the six-time champion 6-7(11), 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-6(5) for the biggest win of his career.
Serving at 4-5 in the second set, the Next Gen ATP finals titlist held his nerve to save all four set points before evening the match at a set apiece and eventually securing a stunning victory after three hours and 45 minutes. Tsitsipas served 20 aces and saved all 12 break points he faced to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final. The World No. 15 becomes the first Greek player to reach the last eight at a major and moves into second place on the list for most Grand Slam wins by a Greek man (9).
"[I am feeling] happiness, pure happiness. It was a very emotional moment. It was a beginning of something really big. I felt joy. I felt happiness. I felt a huge relief going out of my shoulders," said Tsitsipas.
"That moment is definitely something that I will never, ever, ever forget. This match point is going to stay, I'm pretty much sure, forever, for the rest of my life."
The 20-year-old Tsitsipas also becomes the youngest Australian Open quarter-finalist since Nick Kyrgios (19 years, 280 days) in 2015. Last year, Tsitsipas became the second winner of the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, following in the footsteps of inaugural champion Hyeon Chung. In 2018, Chung also used his win in Milan as a platform for success in Melbourne, reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final (l. to Federer).
Federer was aiming to become the oldest Australian Open quarter-finalist since Ken Rosewall (43) in 1977. The two-time defending champion entered the match on a 17-match winning streak at Melbourne Park.
"I have massive regrets tonight... I felt like I had to win the second set," said Federer. "I don't care how I do it, but I had to do it. It cost me the game tonight."
Tsitsipas will face Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, for the first time at tour-level, in the quarter-finals. The Doha champion defeated last year's runner-up Marin Cilic 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 after three hours and 58 minutes.
In a tight opening set that lasted 58 minutes, Federer was unable to convert the only two break points on offer in the opening game. After saving three set points at 7/6, 9/8 and 11/10 by taking time away from his opponent with strong serving and net approaches, Federer converted his fourth set point with a commanding cross-court forehand that Tsitsipas was unable to control.
Federer served impeccably throughout the second set to pile the pressure onto his opponent's service games, but Tsitsipas played without fear in crucial moments. The 20-year-old saved eight break points, including four set points at 4-5, to reach a second tie-break. The #NextGenATP Greek proved comfortable transitioning up the court to rush Federer, who made a series of forehand errors in tight moments.
"There are always multiple factors that play into a match like this. But it definitely didn't go the way I was hoping on the break points," said Federer. "Clearly something is wrong with how I return him, what I'm trying to do. He's doing a good job to defend them. Nevertheless, it's very frustrating."
After splitting the opening six points of the tie-break, Tsitsipas found success when he needed it most. The 20-year-old fired multiple forehand winners and forced Federer into errors to snatch four straight points and level the match.
Both men continued to find their spots on serve in the third set, with neither man able to convert break points in their fourth return games as a third tie-break appeared to be on the horizon. But Tsitsipas grabbed the only break of the match, after two hours and 54 minutes, following three consecutive forehand errors from Federer.
In a fourth set dominated by serve, Tsitsipas found himself a tie-break away from victory shortly after holding his 24th straight service game of the match. After Federer fired a forehand long at 5/5, Tsitsipas closed out the match on his first match point with a driven cross-court forehand.
"I was just serving well," said Tsitsipas. "I think I was just very aggressive from the very beginning from his return. I managed to not make any mistakes, stay in the point and make him play. Most of the times he missed. Most of the times I saved those break points.
"It was actually very mental, I would say. I could have cracked at any moment, but I didn't because I really wanted it bad. I showed it on the court. For sure, that mental toughness helped a lot. It could have been a different match if I wouldn't stand that pressure."
Did You Know?
Federer needed to reach at least the semi-finals in Melbourne to avoid falling out of the Top 5 of the ATP Rankings.