Jiri Lehecka was defeated by Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets, setting up a matchup with Karen Khachanov in the Australian Open semifinals.
With a victory of 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-4, third-seeded Greek Tsitsipas advanced to his fourth Melbourne semi-final in five years.
Lehecka, of the Czech Republic, was one of the tournament’s unexpected winners after defeating two top-12 seeds to go to the quarterfinals.
Prior to this, the 21-year-old had never triumphed in a Grand Slam match.
When Sebastian Korda, the Russian’s quarterfinal opponent, retired due to a wrist injury with the score at 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 3-0 earlier on day nine, Khachanov advanced to the final four of the Australia major for the first time.
When Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul square off in an all-American quarterfinal on Wednesday before nine-time champion Novak Djokovic takes on Russian Andrey Rublev, the other semifinal will be decided.
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“A decent performance”
Lehecka had gained attention during the last week after battling victories over the sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime and the 11th-seeded Cameron Norrie, but the world number 71 appeared uneasy in the opening exchanges with Tsitsipas.
The fourth-ranked player in the world, Tsitsipas, dominated the opening set after breaking his rival’s serve early on, but Lehecka exerted significant pressure on him throughout the second. When a tie-break was necessary, Tsitsipas seized charge and quickly built a 4-0 lead before winning the match with ease.
The 24-year-old encountered more difficulties in the third set when he saved three consecutive break points at 3-3 before acting on Lehecka’s service at a 5-4 deficit to win the match on his first match opportunity.
Tsitsipas commented, “It was a fair dinkum kind of performance,” adding that he considered the Australian Open to be his home Grand Slam.
“The most significant thing is that I solved the problem; this match felt different from all the others.
“One of the toughest three-set matches so far in the competition, it was quite challenging.
“Jiri has had a very fantastic tournament. He is a great player, and I wish him the best in the future.”
In their five encounters, Tsitsipas has never lost to Khachanov, his semi-final opponent. Should Tsitsipas win the Australian Open and his first Grand Slam championship, he would move up to the top spot in the world rankings.
Not how you wanted to end,
Karen Khachanov and Sebastian Korda
On his path to the quarterfinals, Sebastian Korda (left) defeated seeds Hubert Hurkacz (10) and Daniil Medvedev (7th seed).
In the earlier quarterfinal on Tuesday, American Korda took a medical timeout in the middle of the second set as he was starting to battle with his right wrist.
He dropped seven straight games after returning, looking visibly discouraged, before announcing his retirement and approaching Khachanov.
A standing ovation greeted Korda’s departure from the stadium as the 1998 winner Petr’s son.
Naturally, that’s not how you wanted to end the game, Khachanov stated.
“It was intensely competitive up to a particular point. Sebastian defeated Hubert Hurkacz in five sets and one of my buddies, Daniil [Medvedev] in three. He is excelling at tennis.”
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Olympic silver medalist Khachanov, who also advanced to the US Open semifinals last year, is just the 10th male player currently competing to reach the final eight at all four major tournaments.
Despite having a solid start, he was unable to serve out the first set at 5-3 before earning his third set point of the tie-break with a precise backhand winner.
Korda had picked up his game after a sluggish start, but he suffered a serious collapse after seeking treatment five games into the second set.
Although Korda did create two break points as Khachanov momentarily tightened up when serving for a 5-3 lead, the set was quickly lost after that, and the American’s fate was sealed when he was only able to gain one point from the first three games of the third.