Tennis: Stefanos Tsitsipas 'living the dream' after setting up Australian Open semi-final with Rafael Nadal

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in action during the match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open quarter-finals on Jan 22, 2019.
Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in action during the match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open quarter-finals on Jan 22, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas said he "surprised himself" with his fairy-tale Australian Open run after sweeping into the semi-finals on Tuesday (Jan 22).

The 20-year-old followed his stunning win over Roger Federer by accounting for Spain's 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who in the first round had ended Andy Murray's tournament and possibly his career.

Tsitsipas had to contend with dropping his serve early in the first three sets before coming through 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) in 3hr 15min on Rod Laver Arena.

"Roberto showed some good tennis the entire week. But, at the end, it's completely different to what I can picture it before going on the court, how you can imagine your opponent is going to play," Tsitsipas said.

"I did surprise a little bit myself with my performance."

The exciting Tsitsipas, who sports a flowing mane of long hair, became the first Greek player to go so deep at any Grand Slam and fell to the floor, head in hands after the winning point.

"It all feels like a fairy tale almost," he said. "I'm just living the dream, living what I've been working hard for.

"I was asked my goals this year and said Grand Slam semis. And when I was answering this question, I thought I was crazy. But it is real. It just happened."

Tsitsipas, who broke through in 2018 with his first ATP Tour title and won the NextGen finals, will face world No. 2 Rafael Nadal for a place in the final.

For the 30-year-old Bautista Agut, who came into his first Slam quarter-final unbeaten in 2019 after winning in Doha, the wait for a maiden major semi-final goes on.

After encountering the gifted Greek at close quarters for the first time, he still fancies either Nadal or Novak Djokovic to lift the Norman Brookes trophy.

"He's playing very good tennis," the Spanish world No. 24 told reporters of Tsitsipas.

"But here I think Rafa and Novak are my favourites."

Nadal inched closer to winning an event he has claimed only once when he trounced unseeded American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in another ruthless display from a man who has not dropped a set so far in Melbourne.

Tiafoe had earlier beaten fifth seed Kevin Anderson, but he was no match for a player at the peak of his powers as Nadal attempts to become only the third man to win all four Slams twice and the first to do so in the Open era.

"I had some trouble at this event all my career, so I'm very happy with the way I played tonight," said the Spaniard. "I feel lucky to be where I am."