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Stefanos Tsitsipas Tops Karen Khachanov For First Australian Open Final

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece celebrates at the Australian Open. Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Dancing among back wall shadows, Stefanos Tsitsipas jabbed back three Karen Khachanov smashes in a row.

Then Tsitsipas seized the light, reversed the rally and rocketed a forehand winner.

Even when operating from obscure areas of the court, Tsitsipas showed flair for flashy creative solutions. 

Exhorted by fans waving Greek flags, a focused Tsitsipas knocked a gritty Khachanov out 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3 to rise to his first Australian Open final.

It’s the second Grand Slam final for 2021 Roland Garros runner-up Tsitsipas, who will be second to none if he wins the final on Sunday against nine-time AO champion Novak Djokovic.

Former No. 1 Djokovic defeated 35th-ranked Tommy Paul 7-5, 6-1, 6-2.

Should Tsitsipas raise the Norman Brookes Trophy and capture his maiden major he will supplant US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz as world No. 1.

A pumped-up Tsitsipas turned his on-court interview with Hall of Famer Jim Courier into a rallying cry to all the Greek fans cramming Rod Laver Arena capping his comments with a hearty “let’s go!”

“I like that number. These are the moments that I’ve been working hard for to be able to play finals like this, but finals that have bigger meaning than just a final,” Tsitsipas told Courier. “So it’s a Grand Slam final, I’m fighting for the No. 1 spot, it’s a childhood dream to be capturing that No. 1 spot someday.

“I’m close. I’m happy that this opportunity comes in Australia and not somewhere else because this is a place of significance so let’s do it guys. Let’s go!”

Intent from the outset today, Tsitsipas conquered Khachanov in the crosscourt forehand exchanges, torched some timely strikes down the line and protected his serve with vigor. Tsitsipas won 84 percent of his first-serve points and pumped 18 aces against 5 double faults in a 3 hour, 21-minute triumph.

There were twitches and turbulence for Tsitsipas, who was on pace for a routine straight sets win. Tsitsipas failed to serve out the first set at 5-3, saw Khachanov erase a couple of match points with forehand blasts in the third-set tiebreaker and was hit with both time violation warning and foot fault calls at various points.

Still, Tsitsipas never lost sight of his major mission.

“I thought of how hard I worked to get to this position,” Tsitsipas said. “I wasn’t able to deliver that in the third set I was extremely close to getting it.

“If you stick around, if you dedicate yourself even more and if you concentrate on this moments even more it pays off quite well and always having that ambience in the background somewhere feels so good when I am able to hit the ball and get such a reward back from the fans.”

The 24-year-old Greek continued his mastery of Khachanov defeating the Russian for the sixth time in as many meetings as Tsitsipas improved to 10-0 in 2023.