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Tsitsipas leads youth charge

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The Greek first came to attention last year when he shot up the rankings from 91st to 15th and won the Next Gen Finals in November

THE NEW BREED: Greeces Stefanos Tsitsipas makes a forehand return to Spains Roberto Bautista Agut during their quarter-final match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia yesterday. Tsitsipas won the match 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2). Picture: AP Photo Mark Schiefelbein

“You’re watching the changing of the guard,” John McEnroe said after 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday.

It may be too soon to write 37-year-old Federer off – it has been done before only for the Swiss to prove commentators wrong – but Tsitsipas certainly has the makings of a future champion.

Yesterday, after defeating Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) in the quarter-finals, he became the youngest player to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam since Novak Djokovic at the US Open in 2007.

The Greek first came to attention last year when he shot up the rankings from 91st to 15th and won the Next Gen Finals in November.

Top scalps

Aside from Federer, he also claimed a string of other top scalps last year, including Djokovic and Dominic Thiem at the Rogers Cup in August, Alexander Zverev at the Citi Open, Kevin Anderson in Shanghai, David Goffin in Cincinnati and Fabio Fognini in Stockholm.

He comes from good sporting stock: His Russian mother was also a junior number one tennis player, while his father is a tennis coach, and his maternal grandfather won an Olympic gold medal playing football for the Soviet Union.

Tsitsipas is part of a new generation of players, including Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov, Australia’s Alex de Minaur, and Frances Tiafoe of the United States, who are just beginning to make their marks at Grand Slams, though he is the first to make it to a semi-final.

He is confident about his prospects, but also aware that he needs to work hard if he wants to maintain the momentum.

“My idol today became pretty much my rival,” he said after beating Federer. But, he added: “I need to stay humble. This win is a good milestone, let’s say good first step, as I said, to something bigger.”

Their match was widely compared to Federer’s breakthrough win at Wimbledon in 2001 against Pete Sampras, who was trying to defend his title.

Federer admitted Tsitsipas was on the right path.

“Beating Novak in Toronto, the likes of Anderson and Zverev, now me here. That’s what you need to do to get to the next level. He’s doing that,” Federer said. – dpa