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        Beaten Tsitsipas backs Daniil to win it all

        • Dan Imhoff

        The euphoria of denying Rafael Nadal in a thrilling Australian Open quarterfinal comeback is but a distant memory for Stefanos Tsitsipas.

        Just two days since handing the 20-time major champion only his second defeat from two sets up, the Greek fifth seed was handed a brutal reality check by an impeccable Daniil Medvedev.

        MORE: Masterful Medvedev marches past Tsitsipas

        The 22-year-old found out the hard way a strategy, which worked brilliantly against one of the greatest, can quickly be picked apart and left in tatters against another jostling to be the next in line.

        Tsitsipas farewells the crowd after his loss

        Medvedev and Tsitsipas have shared heated exchanges before. The tinder was ready to spark with more on the line in this showdown than any of their previous six.

        The Russian, however, could not have cut a more composed figure – even against pro-Greek sections of the crowd, which threatened to set fire to his combustible temperament during a fleeting concentration lapse midway through the third.

        While Medvedev had fallen only once to his younger rival, it was their most recent clash at the 2019 ATP Finals, which Tsitsipas went on to win.

        Now seeded fourth, Medvedev in 2021 was an entirely different proposition.

        MORE: Medvedev lays down Djokovic challenge

        “I was just focused on my game, and he put out his show. He became Daniil Medvedev for three sets in a row,” Tsitsipas said.

        If he was to reach his first major final from his third semi, Tsitsipas would have to rebound from two sets down in consecutive matches.

        The Greeks rallied behind their man when he fended off break points, which would have all but sealed his fate, as he held for 2-3 in the third.

        They erupted when he landed the break back on a loose game from the Russian, but it was to be Tsitsipas’s last hurrah.

        “It didn't really matter. Up to this point, even if I would have been doing well, I don't think I would have had any energy to get back in the match. It was all in the first two sets," he said.

        “I wouldn't be surprised to see Daniil win the tournament. But, you know, it's a strange scenario. I played Rafa here two years ago. I found his performance against me that day phenomenal. I was 100 per cent sure he was going to win the tournament and I ended up being wrong.”

        Of the 25 players who had defeated Nadal before the semifinals at a major, not one had gone on to win the title.

        Tsitsipas saw no reason he should become the next in that long and unappealing line of statistics.

        “It's a shame. You know, you come so close, you work so hard, and everyone is dreaming of a Grand Slam victory,” he said.

        “I mean, you don't think of it when you play the first week or the second week. ?As closer you reach towards the end, you're overwhelmed with many different thoughts. Your aspirations and your dreams are suddenly close to become a reality.”

        The reality was he had come up against a strategic genius who on Rod Laver Arena on Friday night, could not put a foot wrong.

        "He's a player who has unlocked pretty much everything in the game."
        Stefanos Tsitsipas

        Medvedev depleted the Greek of tactical alternatives and subsequently sapped him mentally and physically.

        This rangy, flat-striking, pace mixer was now riding a 20-match winning streak, including 12?over top-10 opponents.

        “Let me tell you that he's a player who has unlocked pretty much everything in the game. It's like he's reading the game really well,” Tsitsipas said.

        “He has this amazing serve, which I would describe close to John Isner's serve. ?And then he has amazing baseline game, which makes it extremely difficult.

        “So even if you return the serve, you don't guarantee that you're going to win the point. ?You have to really work hard for it.”

        For an astute scholar of the sport, the 22-year-old looked to a former Australian Open champion for inspiration in defeat.

        “I've proven that I have the level to beat these players,” Tsitsipas said. “It's not that I haven't, but as Stan Wawrinka says, ‘Ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again ... fail better’. So let's hope for something better next time. I really hope it comes.”

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