Tsitsipas reaches Nirvana in miraculous Nadal comeback

The Greek reeled in Rafael Nadal from two sets down to book an Australian Open semi-final against Daniil Medvedev.

Stefanos Tsitsipas Australian Open 2021©Tennis Australia / Jonathan Di Maggio
 - Alex Sharp

“I don’t know what happened after the third set, I just flew like a little bird.

Starry eyed Stefanos Tsitsipas was struggling to explain how he just pulled off one of the most incredible Open Era comebacks.

The world No.6 returned to the Australian Open semi-finals with an astonishing 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-5 scoreline to book a ticket to face Daniil Medvedev in the final four.

Into his press conference, the philosophical Greek was still trying to find the right words to describe his classic quarter-final. 

What happened out on the court was spectacular by itself. Nothing really to describe it. You know, did the ‘hard yakkas,’ as they say in Australia,” added the 22-year-old with some local colloquial slang. “I wasn't being a ‘bludger,’ so it was going pretty well.”

Nadal, chasing a men’s record-breaking 21st major, assembled two devasting opening sets, but Tsitsipas was able to stay in touch in the third set with some highlight-reel shotmaking.

The Spaniard struck a brace of errant overheads in the tie-break, enabling Tsitsipas to ignite his memorable win. It sounds like the world No.6 had found ‘the zone’ elite athletes talk about from their finest moments

“I was so much… how would I describe myself? Nirvana,” reflected the Greek. “Playing, not thinking. I was thinking a little bit, but I was mainly focused on each single serve, each single shot. 

“I think at the very third set I changed few things. I changed my patterns. I maybe took a little bit more time. I think that helped. I wanted to stay in the court a bit longer. These things kept adding up. I think the change the pace, the rhythm, things like this. I brainstormed and I said, ‘What is going wrong, why is it not working my way?’ But then it just took off by itself. I just played more flawless. I played with no care, and that increased the level of tennis that I put out there.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas Australian Open 2021©Tennis Australia / Scott Barbour

Nadal crushed Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 in the semi-finals at Melbourne Park back in 2019. What a turnaround from the fifth seed, becoming only the second player to overturn a two-set deficit against Nadal in Grand Slam play. 

“Moments like this haven't happened a lot in my career, and the fact that I was able to come back the way I did and the way I fought against such a top, respected player like Rafa was something extra, something I have never felt before. It was a first-time,” continued Tsitsipas, booking his third major semi-final. 

“To be able to just walk up to my team and hug them and share that little moment of appreciation and solidarity, it was epic. It was everything I ever dreamed of, and I'm glad that I am where I am today. There is obviously light ahead at the end of the tunnel, and there is plenty more to go.”

Tsitsipas team Australian Open ©Tennis Australia / Mark Peterson

Time to recharge and replicate because Medvedev, riding a 19-match winning streak all the way back to the Rolex Paris Masters, stands in his path.

The Russian dismissed compatriot Andrey Rublev in straight sets and has collected the trophy in Bercy, the ATP Finals and the ATP Cup during his mega run.  

I think with experience I have realised how to preserve my energy and when I really have to put in the hard work in the match. So, Medvedev is going to be difficult task,” stated Tsitsipas (1-5 down in their head-to-head), having defeated the world No.4 last time out at the 2019 ATP Finals, en route to winning the season-ending finale. 

“He's in very good shape, playing good tennis, playing accurate, playing simple. He just plays extremely smart and outplays you. He's somebody I really need to be careful with and just take my chances and press.”

As he states, the Grand Slam experience keeps on accumulating. Tsitsipas nearly recovered from two sets down to Djokovic in the Roland-Garros 2020 semi-final, “my body cracked.”

Absorbing that loss, Tsitsipas was adamant to master the art of pacing himself at the majors.

“Today was a bit different. I was feeling much better physically, and I think there is a little bit to learn from that match that I played at the Roland Garros,” maintained the 22-year-old. 

“I don't know why I just, I woke up today and I felt really relaxed and I just felt like things are going to be, to go my way. 

“I was very serene during the match, regardless if it was the first set or the fifth one. It's a sign of maturity and sign of strength as well.”