Greek tennis player Stefanos Tsitsipas, aiming for his maiden Grand Slam, overcame a tough challenge from Argentina's Sebastian Baez 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round of the Australian Open for the fourth year in a row here on Thursday.
The fourth-seeded Tsitsipas, who had reached the semifinal at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021, never found top form as he was tested by the gritty 21-year-old Baez, ranked 88th in the world. However, Tsitsipas demonstrated an abundance of determination and character, raising his level in the third and fourth sets to advance after a three-hours-and-22-minute-long slugfest.
The world No. 4 Tsitsipas spent the off-season recovering from an elbow injury, which forced him to withdraw from the Nitto ATP Finals in November. He showed no signs of discomfort against Baez though in their first ATP meeting and will next face 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria or Frenchman Benoit Paire.
Tsitsipas had upset Swiss ace Roger Federer en route to the 2019 semis, before he advanced to the last-four again last year. The seven-time tour-level titlist is aiming to win his first major at the Australian Open, with his best result at a Grand Slam a run to the final at Roland Garros in 2021 where he lost to world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
Baez, who reached the semifinals at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in November, was making his Grand Slam debut in Melbourne. The world No. 88 edged Albert Ramos-Vinolas in five sets in the first round.