For Stefanos Tsitsipas, the stop in Melbourne is not just another, but a very special one. It was in the Australian city where his maternal grandfather, Sergei Salnikov, hung the 1956 Olympic gold defending the USSR flag and where three years ago, when the Greek was 20 and was already showing his head in the elite, he knocked down Roger Federer for the first time. Now, consecrated at the top of the ranking of the ATP and in search of his first victory in a Grand Slam, he is repositioning himself after an emotional ups and downs. Too many curves in the last few months. He caressed the sky at Roland Garros, but then fell into the hole.
After starring in a splendid clay court tour and reaching the final of the great French, where he reached two sets above Novak Djokovic, the current number four began to slide down the slope until the dynamics took a turn on his arrival in Melbourne. The comeback of the Serbian on that Parisian afternoon left him groggy tennis-wise and, from there, the falls followed one another –first round in Wimbledon, third in New York and in the Tokyo Games, repeated stumbles in the rest of the tournaments…– , accentuated the blow by an insistent pain in the right elbow that did not subside.
Lately, criticism and whistling have become excessively common for him. The stands of the US Open dedicated whistles to him in September for his recurrent and extensive visits to the locker room, blocking the matches at crucial moments, and there have been not a few locker room mates who have reproached him for the ruse. Later, the Bercy public also booed him when he left the track during the duel with Alexei Popyrin, but on that occasion the exit was forced: the discomfort in the joint grew and forced him two weeks later to withdraw from the Masters Cup .
Without another option, on November 25 he underwent surgery and the outlook was not entirely positive. The doctor who intervened on his elbow told him that he would not compete in Australia, but he failed. “I didn't think I could play here. I have shown him that he was wrong”, he commented after beating the Italian Yannik Sinner in the direction of the semifinal this Friday (9.30, Eurosport) against Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev, before history
“He, Zverev and I will be the next Big Three . I firmly believe that we are the three best players after Nole”, predicts the Athenian, who before meeting the Russian had to overcome a five-set trap against Taylor Fritz and had previously been required in the four sets played against Sebastián Báez and Benoit Paire. However, he has been the semifinalist who has invested the least time to land in the penultimate round of the tournament: 13h 43m, by 14h 09m for Nadal, 14h 59m for Medvedev and 16h 09m for Matteo Berrettini.
“ Dr. Frank [Denzler] told me about the experience of other players and he is surprised at my recovery”, the 2019 (defeat against Nadal) and 2021 (Medvedev) semifinalist recounted two days ago. “When you do it well, you tend to think that you are untouchable, but it is important to always have your feet on the ground”, it was remembered and prescribed before meeting the fierce Medvedev, who did conquer this Sunday the major would unseat Djokovic in first place and make history as he would become the first man in the Open Era (since 1968) to win his first two Grand Slam titles in a row.
In the precedents between the two, the one from Moscow dominates 6-2, 5-1 on hard court. However, Tsitsipas warns: “I feel like I'm in the zone, and I have no intention of leaving it.”
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