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Tsitsipas Meets Lehecka, Khachanov & Korda Collide In Australian Open QFs

Two semi-final spots up for grabs on Day 9 at Melbourne Park
January 23, 2023
Stefanos Tsitsipas is chasing his first Grand Slam title in Melbourne.
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Stefanos Tsitsipas is chasing his first Grand Slam title in Melbourne. By ATP Staff

The men’s singles field at the 2023 Australian Open is down to eight and Tuesday’s action sees half the remaining competitors bidding for a semi-final spot.

Stefanos Tsitsipas seeks to halt the dream run of Jiri Lehecka in the night session on Rod Laver Arena, where the third-seeded Greek is chasing his third consecutive Australian Open semi-final appearance. Earlier on Tuesday, Karen Khachanov and Sebastian Korda are in action, with both players appearing in their maiden Australian Open quarter-final. previews the quarter-final matchups on Day 9 at Melbourne Park.

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[3] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) vs. Jiri Lehecka (CZE)

Tsitsipas passed the toughest test of his Melbourne run on Sunday, holding off a furious charge from Jannik Sinner in a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4 victory. The Greek credited his late surge to his ability to relax and reset, with a loose arm helping him find the groove on his serve as he made 24 of 26 first serves in the final set.

With the stakes even higher in the quarter-finals, Tsitsipas is not feeling any added pressure as he seeks his first Grand Slam title.

“I play my game. Titles come if I play good. That takes care of itself,” he said in a post-match press conference. ”If you're able to play the best you can produce on the court, I feel like the rest just follows naturally. It's a natural flow of things.”

After falling in the first round of the 2022 US Open — where he admitted the weight of playing for the top spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings affected him — Tsitsipas again could become World No. 1 by lifting the trophy in Melbourne.

Standing in his way is 21-year-old Lehecka, who has moved up 32 places to No. 39 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings behind his Melbourne run. Prior to this fortnight, he was 0-4 at the majors, losing in the first round of each in 2022. Now, he will look to earn his first win against Tsitsipas, after a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 loss to the Greek last February in the Rotterdam semi-finals.

“I'll be super excited,” Lehecka said of the matchup, before it was confirmed by Tsitsipas’ victory. “I will go for that revenge, for sure. I know that he will remember how we played last year in Rotterdam. One set I was the better player on the court. Then he overtook the match.

“But I think that he will remember, and he will know what my strengths are. He will feel that I can get him under pressure. At the same time, I know that he's a great player… I know how to play against him. Of course, the match last year from the Rotterdam semi-finals will help me a lot, how to imagine some things, how it went over there, how to prepare for this next matchup.”

Lehecka has taken huge strides since then, and and he has been a different player since his run to the title match at the Next Gen ATP Finals in November.

“I think at the Next Gen Finals, I finally found my game and I found how to play what I want to play, and how to beat great guys in big stadiums,” he said. “I saw all the media attention over there. It was kind of a [gateway] to the big tennis.”

It doesn’t get much bigger than facing the World No. 4 in Rod Laver Arena.

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[18] Karen Khachanov vs. [29] Sebastian Korda (USA)

If Khachanov and Korda’s previous Grand Slam meeting is anything to go by, the Rod Laver Arena crowd could be in for a wild ride on Tuesday afternoon. In the fourth round at Wimbledon 2021, Khachanov edged the American 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 to reach his second major quarter-final.

Korda has since defeated Khachanov twice to establish a 2-1 lead in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series, but both players enter Tuesday’s clash flying high having already hit their own respective Grand Slam milestones this fortnight.

After breezing past Yoshihito Nishioka for the loss of just six games in Melbourne, Khachanov has now reached the quarter-finals at all four Grand Slams. The 26-year-old has no desire to let up as he bids to move past Korda and equal his best performance at a major, his semi-final run at last September’s US Open.

“Obviously [reaching the quarter-finals at all four Slams] gives me some kind of compliments on what I achieved so far,” said Khachanov after routing Nishioka 6-0, 6-0, 7-6(4) on Sunday. “I'm just happy to do it. Hopefully I can continue even further on even bigger things.”

In contrast, Tuesday’s clash will be Korda’s maiden Grand Slam quarter-final, although the 22-year-old has already shown remarkable progress in a 2023 season that is just over three weeks old. He held championship point before falling to a narrow defeat against Novak Djokovic in the final of the Adelaide International 1 in early January, and he believes that past disappointments in close matches against top players have helped him this year in Melbourne, where he notched a statement three-set win against Daniil Medvedev in the third round.

“I think I've had a tough match with Rafa [at Indian Wells last year], serving for it a couple times,” said Korda, speaking after edging Hubert Hurkacz in a five-set fourth-round thriller on Sunday. “Match point with Djokovic [in Adelaide]… I think all those little moments that I've gone through, kind of learning from them, staying patient, staying positive, going through the process. I think [they] have really helped me going forward.”

In Doubles Action…

The men’s doubles draw also reaches the quarter-final stage Tuesday, when third seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer bid to reach the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time. They take on unseeded French duo Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin on Kia Arena, with both teams yet to drop a set after their first three matches in Melbourne.

In Day 9’s other last-eight clash, Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski hope to back up their third-round upset of second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury when they face another all-French pairing, Benjamin Bonzi and Arthur Rinderknech.

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