Stefanos Tsitsipas booked his spot in the semifinals of the 2023 Australian Open on Tuesday but it could have been just as disastrous for the Greek on the night. By a matter of a few inches, the Greek escaped expulsion from Melbourne Park after almost hitting a ball kid.
After taking the first two sets 6-3, 7-6(2), Tsitsipas and Jiri Lehecka were all square in the third set, with the Czech serving at 4-3*. At 30-15, Lehecka opted for a body serve that was well judged by the third seed, who shimmied away early to hit a return forehand. Unfortunately, the shot did not have enough power, allowing the World No. 71 to respond with a powerful forehand of his own down the line.
Although Tsitsipas tried his best to chase the ball down, it went past him, hitting the back boards with a thud. Frustrated at not capitalizing on the serve, the World No. 4 smashed the ball back into the board in anger. What he did not expect, however, was the ball kid moving forward to retrieve the ball, unfortunately in the same direction it was being sent back by the Greek.
Thankfully, the ball did not hit the surprised kid, as it would have been a definite default for Tsitsipas otherwise -- similar to when Novak Djokovic was disqualified for the 2020 US Open for hitting a line judge, accidental as it was. Even the commentators on-air were stunned by how close the 24-year-old came to sending himself home with a momentary lapse in concentration.
In the end, Stefanos Tsitsipas did not need more than three sets to close out the contest, prevailing 6-4 in the third set to reach his fourth semifinal at the Australian Open (six appearances).
Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Karen Khachanov in the semifinals of the Australian Open
Following his victory over Jiri Lehecka, Stefanos Tsitsipas will cross swords with Karen Khachanov in the semifinals of the 2023 Australian Open. The Russian had an easier time in his quarterfinal fixture, beating Sebastian Korda 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-0 after Korda retired in the middle of the third set due to a wrist injury.
The duo have met five times on tour till date, with Tsitsipas winning all five meetings, including their meeting at the Italian Open last year. However, this will be the first time they take on each other in a Grand Slam.
A victory against Khachanov will send Tsitsipas into his first ever Australian Open final, where he could face off against nine-time winner Novak Djokovic -- a repeat of their 2021 French Open final.