Greek Lightning: Tsitsipas stuns with epic comeback
Stefanos Tsitsipas has achieved tennis' near impossible.
Trailing two sets to love against the sport's greatest frontrunner in Rafael Nadal, Tsitsipas rallied to score the biggest victory of his career and reach the Australian Open semi-finals for a second time.
The fifth-seeded Greek - a key member of tennis' Generation Next - earned another shot at nemesis Daniil Medvedev thanks to the 3-6 2-6 7-6(7-4) 6-4 7-5 victory across four pulsating hours.
Nadal was on the cusp of a straight-sets victory when he entered the third-set tiebreak, only for a flurry of errors, including two wayward overheads, to open the door for Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas didn't need a second invitation.
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"I'm speechless, I have no words to describe what just happened on court. My tennis speaks for itself.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to be able to fight at such a level and just be able to leave it all out on the court. I started very nervous - I won't lie - but I don't know what happened after the third set.
"I flew like a little bird and everything was working for me and I think the emotions at the very end are indescribable - they're just something else."
It was just Nadal's third defeat from 249 matches when he captures the first two sets, and means he's now lost more Australian Open quarter-finals than he's won (seven to six).
The 34-year-old Spaniard will have to wait until his beloved French Open to try to again win a 21st grand slam title and snatch sole ownership of the record.
Tsitsipas absorbed 58 Nadal winners and hit 49 of his own in a brilliant performance, with the last of them a gutsy backhand down the line to seal victory on his third match point.
"I'm speechless - I have no words to describe what happened just now on the court," Tsitsipas said immediately afterwards.
Both players held serve comfortably through the first 10 games of the fifth set, before Nadal - as unlikely as it seemed - became the first player to flinch.
Out of nowhere, Nadal committed four consecutive unforced errors, including a wild forehand that landed wide and handed Tsitsipas the chance to serve out a famous triumph.
The drama wasn't over, with Tsitsipas thudding a forehand into the net to slump to 0-30, but he recovered to earn the first of his match points three points later.
He still had to save one break-back point, which he did with a thunderous first serve. Tsitsipas' composure in that moment summed up his night.
The Greek actually started the match the better of the two players, managing to get to 30-all or better in three of Nadal's first four service games - only for him to escape each time.
The last of them, from 0-30, would have hurt most, with Nadal's hot patch effectively beginning at that moment.
There were two unreturnable serves, before a point that became a familiar trend: Nadal dragging Tsitsipas further and further out of court, then eventually nailing a crosscourt backhand winner.
A game later, Nadal's magnificent dipping return caught Tsitsipas out as he attempted a surprise serve-volley that left him facing the first break point, after leading the game 30-0.
Nadal needed just one opportunity to turn the match on its head.
The second set was a procession - Tsitsipas dropping serve in the first and fifth games - but there was a surprise twist to come.
RUSSIAN RESULT WHICH WOULD BE A 'DREAM COME TRUE'
The physical toll of Daniil Medvedev's demanding quarter-final triumph were on show moments after he continued his dominance over 'little brother' Andrey Rublev.
In hot Melbourne conditions on Wednesday, the all-Russian quarter-final quickly turned into a war as both powerful strokemakers felt the effects of a brutal matchup - with Rublev cracking midway through the second set, before Medvedev crushed his young friend.
But after sealing the straight sets victory in just over two hours, Medvedev showed the impact of the battle and immediately called for a trainer to treat cramp to his left quad before he was able to leave the court.
It was the first sign of weakness he'd displayed in the win, which maintained a perfect four-from-four record at tour level against his childhood friend - who fell at the quarter-final hurdle of a grand slam for the fourth time.
Draining rallies sucked the life out of both players but it was the younger who wilted first, showing signs of fatigue from midway through the second set as his crushing groundstrokes lost their sting.
"Both of us were (cramping) we had some unbelievable rallies," said Medvedev, who is projected to move to a career-high ranking of third on Monday.
"It's the first time I saw Andrey so tired … we always laugh about him that he's like a Duracell battery.
"It was the first really hot day, we were playing 3pm. It was not easy physically.
"That's definitely one of the best matches I've played lately, even taking in last year, I think this match is really unbelievable because I think he was playing really well and I managed to beat him in three sets, even without a tie-breaker."
Rublev has still never taken a set of Medvedev at the top level, a record which didn't look like changing when he was broken in the sixth game of the match - though the world No. 8, who'd dropped just one set this tournament, hit back immediately.
But Medvedev turned the screws, closing out the first set before racing to the finish line as his opponent faded from the contest.
"If we take all the matches that I've played against him, today he played his best level," Rublev said.
"In the end he was playing all the moments better than me. Simple.
"Mentally it was tough because you feel always that you cannot lose focus. As soon as you lose focus, it's going to be over."
Medvedev's ice-cold performance should send alarm bells ringing throughout the minds of his rivals - not least of all Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1 who is chasing a stunning eighth Australian Open title.
Medvedev holds a 3-4 win-loss record against the all-time great, but those three wins have come in the pair's past four contests - and the Russian is in red hot form, with Wednesday's victory his 19th on the trot dating back to last November.
He advances to the final four, where he'll face the winner of second seed Rafael Nadal and fan favourite Stefanos Tsitsipas - while Djokovic is in the other semi-final, against Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.
"If we'll have a Russian final, it is just going to be a dream come true," Medvedev said.
Originally published as Greek Lightning: Tsitsipas stuns with epic comeback