Melbourne: Young Stefanos Tsitsipas signalled a changing of the guard at the top of world tennis as he shocked defending champion Roger Federer in the Australian Open fourth round Sunday. The NextGen finals champion beat Federer, who is 17 years his senior, 6-7 (11-13), 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) on Rod Laver Arena. Tsitsipas, seeded 14, became the first Greek in history to reach the quarter-finals of a Slam where he will meet Spain’s 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut. Joing Federer in the exit door was Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova who crashed out after being beaten by Ashleigh Barty of Australia in the pre-quarters round of the women’s and world number two Angelique Kerber faced a 6-0-6-2 at the hands of debutant Danielle Collins of America. Braty will meet Petra Kvitova, who matched her best Slam performance since a terrifying knife attack derailed her career by beating unseeded American 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 6-1. “There’s nothing really I can say to describe this,” said the 20-year-old. “I’m the happiest man on earth right now.”
The pair’s only previous meeting in the mixed team Hopman Cup earlier this month was a tight affair where Federer had won courtesy of two tie-breaks. So there was little surprise when the first set also went to 6-6 and a decider. It ended on a controversial note when a fan jumped the gun and shouted ‘out’ on a Tsitsipas forehand with Federer 12-11 ahead. The call distracted Tsitsipas, who mis-hit his next forehand and Federer put it away. The second saw Federer constantly pressure the Greek’s serve but each time the energetic Tsitsipas resisted. By the time the second set reached the tiebreak the gutsy Greek had already repelled 10 break points. This time, however, Tsitsipas quickly took two points against Federer’s serve and levelled the match after just over two hours. At 4-5 in the third, Tsitsipas forced his first two break points of the entire match but Federer weathered that storm.
But the clouds were darkening over the 20-time Grand Slam champion who was making an uncharacteristic series of mistakes, largely on his forehand wing. On Federer’s next service game the youngster again got to 15-40, this time for set points, and a 42nd unforced error into the net saw the veteran behind in a match for the first time in the championship. Tsitsipas called the trainer in the changeover after the seventh game of the fourth set a he began to cramp on a warm and sticky night. Federer couldn’t take advantage of his opponent’s plight and Tsitsipas sealed the win on his first match point in the third tiebreak of the match. “Roger is a legend of our sport,” said Tsitsipas. “I have so much respect for him. It’s a dream come true.” Earlier in the day, Rafael Nadal pounded former Australian Open semi-finalist Tomas Berdych 6-0, 6-1, 7-6(4) to book his place in the quarterfinals for the 11th time. Federer was gunning for a 21st Grand Slam title but had a battle on his hands from off against the 20-year-old, touted among the new generation of young stars as a future champion.
“I’m the happiest man on Earth right now, I cannot describe it,” said the 14th seed, who is the first Greek in history to reach the quarter-finals of a Slam. “I’ve been idolising him (Federer) since the age of six. It was a dream come true for me just being on Rod Laver facing him. Winning at the end, I can’t describe it.” The Swiss great was gracious in defeat, saying “I lost to a better player who was playing very well, who hung in there and stayed calm”.
Kerber, the bookies’ favourite along with Serena Williams after defending champion Caroline Wozniacki was ousted early, was no match for Collins, ranked 35 in the world. Collins is little known after playing much of her tennis in the US college system and was making her debut in the main draw at Melbourne Park. She had never won a Grand Slam match before this year. “I may not have won a Grand Slam match before this but I tell you, it’s going to keep happening,” said the 25-year-old. “I better have many more of these.” “I always say the same when I am back for injury,” said Nadal. “I don’t expect negative or positive things. I just try to do my work every day and just be with (the) right attitude every single day.” He will play world number 39 Frances Tiafoe for a place in the semi-finals after the young American celebrated his 21st birthday by grinding his way past Grigor Dimitrov. “I knew I had to keep chipping away — in a sense, trust the work we’ve done. I know that I can match it with the best,” said Barty, seeded 15.