Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas has another shot at claiming his maiden Grand Slam title after reaching the Australian Open final by beating Russia’s Karen Khachanov in the last four in Melbourne.
Third seed Tsitsipas, 24, won 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 against Khachanov, who was heading to a first major final.
Tsitsipas lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final and may have the chance to avenge that loss.
Serbian Djokovic will face American Tommy Paul in Friday’s other semi-final.
Tsitsipas, who will become world number one if he wins the title, finally booked his place after recovering from Khachanov by saving two match points in the third set tie-break.
Another tight forehand saw a third chance vanish in what turned out to be the final game, before regaining composure to convert his fourth when a first serve was hit long by the 18th seed.
Asked what he was thinking when the match went into a fourth set, Tsitsipas said: “I thought about everything I worked to get to this position.
“But if you stick around, dedicate yourself even more and focus even more in the important moments, it pays off.”
Nine-time champion Djokovic is the favorite to take on Tsitsipas and takes on unseeded Paul, who is playing in his first major semi-final, at 08:30 GMT on Friday.
The 35-year-old former world number one has won in Melbourne every time he has reached the last four and is aiming for a record 10th title that would equal Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 major men’s titles.
Tsistipas feel at home in Melbourne
In a hard-court tournament he thrives on, and in a city where he is warmly supported by its large Greek population, Tsitsipas has long seemed destined for success at the Australian Open.
The towering youngster heralded his arrival there with a famous 2019 win over defending champion Roger Federer in round four, only for a thrilling run to end when he was crushed by Rafael Nadal on his first appearance in the semi-finals.
Longtime rival Daniil Medvedev ended his dreams in the final four stages in 2021 and 2022, with another Russian – this time the mighty Khachanov – standing in his way this time.
Supported by a raucous crowd who waved Greek flags after virtually all of his winning points, Tsitsipas started confidently against a player he had beaten in their previous five meetings.
Khachanov couldn’t cope with the hard-hitting groundstrokes and dynamic athleticism of Tsitsipas as the world number four took a two-set lead.
When Tsitsipas burst out early in the third set and took a 5-4 lead that left him serving for the match, few at Rod Laver Arena were expecting anything more than a straight-sets win.
However, nerves kicked in for Tsitsipas, who suddenly looked uncertain with his groundstrokes, and Khachanov let loose to extend the contest.
After a break in the bathroom before the fourth set, Tsitsipas came back without the weight of expectation and broke Khachanov’s serve at the first opportunity.
Dominant service games from then on ensured there would be no repeat of the previous set as he finally reached the final of what he calls his ‘home’ Grand Slam event.
“I feel blessed to be able to play tennis at this level and for many years I have wanted to put Greek tennis on the map – Maria [Sakkari] and I did, I think,” Tsitsipas said.
“Coming from a small country like Greece, I am so grateful to receive such support.
“I never thought I would be treated so well here, so I’m extremely happy to be in the final now – let’s see what happens.”