MELBOURNE: Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas said he would need to be at the peak of his mental strength against six-times Australian Open champion Roger Federer after his hopes of avoiding the “legend” of the sport in the fourth round were dashed.
Seeded 14th in Melbourne, the 20-year-old Tsitsipas beat Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3 3-6 7-6(7) 6-4 on Friday to reach the last 16 at a Grand Slam for the second time after making the same stage at last year’s Wimbledon.
Federer was still playing his match against American Taylor Fritz at the Rod Laver Arena when Tsitsipas was asked in his court-side interview who he was cheering for.
The Greek, understandably, was rooting for a Fritz win to avoid facing the 20-times Grand Slam champion. The pair played in the Hopman Cup recently, where the Swiss won 7-6(5) 7-6(4).
“I learned a lot since my last match with him. I know the patterns that he’s using a bit better now. He’s serving really well, so I’m going to have to utilise this, and take advantage of my returns as much as possible,” Tsitsipas said.
“He’s a legend of our sport. It will be a great day facing him in one of the best arenas, Rod Laver. I’m really excited for that match.”
The Greek said he had vivid memories of watching some of Federer’s finals against the likes of Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic over the years and hoped he would not be overwhelmed by Sunday’s experience.
“It’s not easy to play these kind of players that you’ve been watching for so long and you finally get to play them,” Tsitsipas said.
“Mentally you have to be much stronger than any other match that you have faced that week. Having such a name like Federer on the other side, it’s an extra, I would say, advantage for him, because he’s done what he’s done. But mentally… for players to beat him, they have to be ready and believe in themselves that they are, their game is great enough to beat such a player.”
Melbourne is home to the largest population of Greeks outside Greece and they turned out in large numbers, singing and chanting for Tsitsipas, who lost his temper in the third set of his match against Basilashvili on Friday.
The Greek had a foul-mouthed outburst at a line judge in his native language, for which he was served a code violation. He later apologised for the incident. “It was heat of the moment. I said some really bad things. I regret saying them,” he said.
“But I really wanted this really bad. At that moment it felt like it was slipping out. “I didn’t quite think what I was saying. Yeah, I wish I could change that and wouldn’t say that. It’s not the right attitude.”