Stefanos Tsitsipas is into the semi-finals of the Australian Open after pulling off a dominant win over Jiri Ledecka, but it could have been an entirely different result if not for an enormous stroke of luck in the third set.
While looking for a crucial break in the third set, up 30-15 on Ledecka’s serve, the Greek World No. 4 was overpowered by a forehand down the line from his Czech opponent.
Seemingly frustrated by the missed opportunity, Tsitsipas then whacked the bouncing Dunlop ball straight back into the wall on Rod Laver Arena.
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To the gasps of the crowd the ball came terrifyingly close to hitting a ball kid who was on the move at the back of the court, as you can see in the video above.
As tennis fans are acutely aware since Novak Djokovic’s default from the 2020 US Open, Tsitsipas’ tournament would have been over then and there had the ball made contact with the ball kid off Tsitsipas’ racquet.
“Tsitsipas just got really lucky,” Jim Courier said in commentary for Nine.
“Watch what happens here. He swings in anger and it nearly hits the ball kid and if it does, he is shaking hands a loser in this match.
“You cannot do, be careful, that was dangerous.
“Lines people are gone. Djokovic got defaulted at the US Open a few years back for swatting a ball and it hit a lines person.
“But there are still people on the court and if you hit them you are automatically disqualified.
“If you hit someone in the stands in anger, you are out as well.”
Speaking in his post-match presser, Tsitsipas accepted he wasn’t happy with himself over the incident.
“I saw the ball kid when the ball came back. I‘m a professional tennis player. I was not aiming for the ball kid obviously,” Tsitsipas said.
“I saw the wall, just went back towards the wall. The ball kid, in my eyes, was pretty far away from me. Would have really had to miss to hit that ball kid.
“Of course, it‘s not nice even to hit it back towards the wall. I personally don’t think I hit it too hard.
“But it doesn‘t matter. What I did, definitely I’m not happy about that. I shouldn’t have done it.
“But it was part of the moment. My ball fell short. There was a little bit of frustration there, but things happen.
“I just continued and continued playing from that point onwards. I didn‘t let that affect me because the distance was pretty big.”
Thankfully for Tsitsipas luck was on his side and managed to eventually get his break in the third set to seal a dominant 6-3 7-6 6-4 victory over Ledecka.
Ledecka had entered the tournament ranked No. 71 in the world but defeated 21st seed Borna Coric, 11th seed Cam Norrie and 6th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime on his way to the quarterfinals.
But Tsitsipas was way too strong, breezing through the match to set up a mouth-watering clash against in-form Russian Karen Khachanov in the semi-finals.
The 24-year-old star, who is looking to breakthrough for his first grand slam victory after falling short in the 2021 French Open final, has endeared himself to Aussie crowds at the event in Melbourne, a city with the second-highest population of Greeks worldwide behind Athens.
Earlier in the event, he used Aussie slang, then he said he’d buy a house in Australia when he retired.
And now Tsitsipas has his eyes on an Aussie treasure, Hollywood actress Margot Robbie.
In his on-court interview with Jim Courier, Tsitsipas praised the crowd and the support and said: “Australia is such a great country. I like of Aussie things, you know. One of my favourite actresses comes from Australia, Margot Robbie …”
Courier: “Margot Robbie? Are you pitching right now? Are you making an offer, what are we seeing here?”
Tsitsipas: “It would be nice to see her over there one day.”
Courier: “So you are officially extending an invitation to Margot Robbie. I just want to be crystal clear here.”
Tsitsipas: “Absolutely. But that is not it. That is not it (my point).
“I like a lot of things in Australia, you know. The people are very welcoming. I have said that so many times, I will keep saying it because it is very true.
“I grew up in place that is very similar in terms of conditions and lifestyle and I find myself feeling home when I am here. It is not too tropical, not too humid and I very much feel like home.
“I know the French have the Roland Garros as their Grand Slam, the British have Wimbledon, the Americans have the US Open. For me the Australian Open is always going to be my home Grand Slam. I feel very much loved here.”
What better time to shoot your shot than when you’re just made an Australian Open semi-final?
However, trying not to get caught up in his promise to move to Australia, Tsitsipas did pledge to open a school in Victoria if he came away with the Australian Open title and its $2.975m in prizemoney.
“I have recently been putting a lot in when it comes to charity, and I would love one day hopefully, winning the Aussie Open and giving every portion of the prizemoney to build a school in Victoria, which is the state of education. I would like to do that,” Tsitsipas said.
“Let’s put tennis to the side because there are a lot more important things in life. I saw Victoria was the state of education and there is an idea for me over there that came to my mind and I saw how difficult it is for a lot of kids around the world to go to school and get proper education which is important, because, you know, not all kids grow up privileged.
“So I would really like to provide – give an opportunity to kids here in this state to build a school and provide them with free education and anything else.
“And to put it into words, that is what Australia means to me.”
Seven News Melbourne reporter Christie Cooper tweeted: “How long before someone breaks it to #Tsitsipas that school is already free for underprivileged kids in Victoria… great match though!”
It was a huge night of action on Tuesday with 33-year-old Victoria Azarenka knocking out 3rd seed Jessica Pegula.
It leaves Azarenka, who won the Australian Open title in 2012 and 2013, just two wins from joining the elite list of mothers to win a grand slam title after the birth of their child.