MELBOURNE—Stefano Tsitsipas had a harder time strictly following all of the rules than he did outplaying his opponent in the early going, then recovered after blowing two match points late in the third set, and eventually reached the final at the Australian Open for the first time by beating Karen Khachanov, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3, on Friday.
The No. 3-seeded Tsitsipas had been 0-3 in semifinals at Melbourne Park, but he finally went a step further to get to the second Grand Slam championship match of his career.
It looked easy for the better part of three sets against Khachanov, but Tsitsipas got broken when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third, then failed to convert either chance to end it when he went up 6-4 in the ensuing tiebreaker. Khachanov collected four consecutive points there, erasing the match points with a pair of booming forehands. Tsitsipas, though, regained his footing quickly, grabbing a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
Now Tsitsipas will face Novak Djokovic or unseeded American Tommy Paul in the men›s singles final on Sunday.
Djokovic has won the Australian Open nine times and owns 21 Grand Slam titles in all—only Rafael Nadal, with 22, has more among men—and carried a 26-match winning streak at Melbourne Park into Friday’s second semifinal.
Elena Rybakina, a 23-year-old who represents Kazakhstan, meanwhile, reached her second final in a span of three major tournaments by beating Victoria Azarenka, 7-6 (4), 6-3 also on Thursday, signaling a rapid rise toward the top of tennis.
“Everything was new at Wimbledon,” Rybakina said after hitting nine aces in the semifinals to raise her tournament-leading total to 44. “Now I more or less understand what to expect.”
That could come in handy Saturday, when she will face No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. Sabalenka reached her first Grand Slam title match at age 24 by beating unseeded Magda Linette, 7-6 (1), 6-2, in Thursday’s second semifinal.
Sabalenka improved to 10-0 in 2023, winning all 20 sets she has contested this season. AP
Image credits: AP