Stefanos Tsitsipas had to apologise for an expletive-laden rant at the Australian Open as he set up a fourth-round clash with Roger Federer.
Twenty-year-old Tsitsipas is arguably the most exciting young talent in men’s tennis and his meeting with defending champion Federer on Sunday will be one to savour.
But the young Greek also has a temper and, after the umpire decided to replay a set point for Tsitsipas during his clash with Nikoloz Basilashvili at 5-3 in the third set, the 14th seed let rip.
Melbourne’s Greek population have turned out in numbers to support Tsitsipas and his countrywoman Maria Sakkari, and there were a lot of young fans in Margaret Court Arena.
Pressed on his language afterwards, Tsitsipas said: “It was heat of the moment. I said some really bad things. I regret saying them. But I really wanted this really bad.
“At that moment it felt like it was slipping (away). He kind of found comfort and confidence after that. So I was really frustrated. I didn’t quite think what I was saying. I wish I could change that and wouldn’t say that. It’s not the right attitude.”
Among a talented generation, Tsitsipas stands out with his flowing curly locks and flamboyant game, but it is his fighting spirit that is perhaps his greatest asset and he showed it in abundance to beat the dangerous Basilashvili 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4.
Federer and Tsitsipas have never played a competitive match but they each know what to expect from the other having contested a high-level encounter at the Hopman Cup earlier this month.
Tsitsipas knows he must be prepared not just physically but mentally, saying: “If I thought about it now it’s insane I’m in this position where I can actually play him. It’s really emotional.
“It’s not easy to play these kind of players that you’ve been watching for so long. Mentally you have to be much stronger than any other match.
“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.”
So does he believe? “I feel good, I can tell you that,” he added.
Tsitsipas was not born when Federer began his professional career but the 37-year-old continues to make top-level tennis look ridiculously easy and his 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 victory over young American Taylor Fritz, during which his four-year-old son Lenny made a rare appearance, was full of highlight-reel shots.
The third seed is excited to be taking on Tsitsipas, saying: “I’m happy I played against him at the Hopman Cup. I think he played really well there. I actually did, too. I thought it was really high-quality tennis. This is obviously a different type of match.
“I’m happy for him. He’s playing so well, and I’m looking forward to the match-up with him. I like how he mixes up his game and also comes to the net. I think we will see some athletic, attacking tennis being played.”
Grigor Dimitrov continued to take advantage of his favourable draw, beating Italian Thomas Fabbiano 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4 to set up a last-16 meeting with America’s Frances Tiafoe.
The 20-year-old was in tears on court after backing up his big victory over Kevin Anderson by coming from two sets to one down to defeat Andreas Seppi.
An ugly war of words within Australian men’s tennis has overshadowed the home country’s achievements on court and shows no sign of dying down yet.
It began on Monday when, after a first-round loss, Tomic accused Hewitt of favouring some players over others and said no-one wanted him as Davis Cup captain.
Hewitt then responded in an incendiary press conference on Thursday, calling Tomic a clown and claiming the 26-year-old had tried to blackmail him and threatened him and his family.
“The threats I’ve received for me and my family, that I’ve had for a year and half now, I don’t think anyone would reach out to a person who speaks like that,” said Hewitt.
Now Tomic has fired back, telling the Herald Sun: “I have never threatened his family. Nice, Lleyton. To think how low of a person you actually (are), and why the Australian public never liked you.
“I got nothing to do with your family and I don’t care what’s wrong with you, you liar.”
Caroline Wozniacki’s reign as Australian Open champion ended with a three-set defeat by Maria Sharapova in the third round.
The battle of two of the biggest names in the game did not disappoint but in the end Sharapova’s fierce hitting won the day as she surged to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory on Rod Laver Arena.
The Russian said: “I thought the level was quite high. I knew I was going to get a really tough match. I haven’t played a lot of matches in the last year, especially against top players. These are the matches you train for and it’s really rewarding to win the last point.”
Wozniacki is the highest-ranked opponent Sharapova has beaten since her first-round victory over Simona Halep at the US Open in 2017.
That was her first grand slam tournament back after her 15-month doping ban and at the time seemed to be a sign of the Russian’s impending resurgence.
It has not happened that way, though, with Sharapova struggling to find anything like her previous form and also troubled by injuries, with an ongoing shoulder problem prompting her to shut down her season after the US Open last summer.
The 31-year-old bristled a little at the suggestion she needed a statement win like this to kick her comeback into gear but there was no doubt she was fired up for this encounter.
There is no love lost between the two players. Wozniacki was one of the most outspoken critics of the way Sharapova was welcomed back to the game following her ban, prompting the Russian’s agent Max Eisenbud to brand Wozniacki a “journeyman player”.
The Dane began the match the stronger and moved into a 4-1 lead but Sharapova responded, showing how desperate she was to match Wozniacki physically by winning a superb, all-court rally that included a left-handed forehand.
She rode a wave of momentum to take the first set and then repeated the pattern by coming from 3-0 down to level the second.
Sharapova has been too error-prone over the last 18 months to make the kind of progress she had been looking for but this was a much more measured performance right up until she served at 4-5, when a double fault and two forehand errors allowed Wozniacki to level the match.
But Sharapova did not fold, the steel in her eyes showing just how much she wanted to win this one, and a series of ferocious forehands in the seventh game gave her the breakthrough.
She celebrated with a huge yell and then broke Wozniacki again to claim victory, finishing with a tally of 37 winners, compared to just 10 for her opponent.
On the men’s side of the draw, Roger Federer put on a performance to defeat Taylor Fritz and set up a mouth-watering fourth-round clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Federer was pushed in the second set by 21-year-old American Fritz but pulled off a succession of highlight reel shots in a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 victory, hitting 34 winners.
The Swiss will play in the fourth round of a grand slam for the 63rd time against a man through to that stage for just the second time in 20-year-old Tsitsipas.
The Greek is arguably the most exciting young star in tennis and he battled to a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4 victory over Nikoloz Basilashvili.
A resurgent Tomas Berdych is also through to the last 16 for the eighth time in the last nine years here after a 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory over 18th seed Diego Schwartzman.