WATCH: Hear from Stefanos Tsitsipas after his five-set win over Jannik Sinner.

When Jim Courier asked Stefanos Tsitsipas how he would describe his 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 win over Jannik Sinner on Sunday night in Melbourne, Tsitsipas knew just the right word to use.

“A ripper,” he said. That’s local slang for “a thing that is particularly admirable or excellent,” according to the Oxford online dictionary.

From there, Tsitsipas talked about how he had pulled out the fifth set after losing the previous two. This time he knew just the right name to invoke.

“I stayed really calm,” Tsitsipas said, as he looked up toward the seats behind the court and smiled. “Just like Mr. Rod Laver used to do in his day.”

Mr. Rod Laver, who was in the first row, stood and smiled. The full house in the stadium that bears his name roared.

Finally, Tsitsipas gave us an idea of how he felt, after flying around the court for four hours.


“I feel my face burn from the effort I put in today; I may need to jump in the Yarra River,” he said, making a deadpan reference to the celebratory leaps that Courier made into that body of water after winning this tournament in the early 1990s.

Some local slang, a local hero, and a local natural landmark, all in one short speech: Tsitsipas is clearly learning how to speak Australian.

He’s also clearly relishing the chance to return to what has become a home Grand Slam for him. That’s a luxury normally only accorded to Americans, Australians, Brits, and French. But the large Greek population in Melbourne—there are roughly 400,000 among its 5 million people—has already helped Tsitsipas make the semifinals twice Down Under, and it looks as if it could take him even farther in 2023. Mr. Laver’s arena was a sea of Greek blue and white on Sunday night; even after four hours, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

“We’re out here doing this together,” Tsitsipas told his supporters.

He needed all the help he could get. Tsitsipas-Sinner was four hours of modern-day brute force tennis. The serve and forehand were paramount. Rallies, when they were allowed to begin, were quickly terminated. Between them, Tsitsipas and Sinner hit 23 aces and 102 winners. After four sets, there was nothing between them.

Two things made the difference down the stretch: one positive, one negative. The positive was Tsitsipas’s serve. On the night, he faced 26 break points; on 22 of them, he made his first serve and won the point. The negative was Sinner’s forehand. He had good looks at high forehands on several occasions in the fifth, and overhit them.

“Just a couple of misses, easy misses, and the match has changed quite fast,” was Sinner’s terse summation. “Then after, he was serving well. That’s it.”

Tsitsipas, not surprisingly, was more expansive.


“I made a few technical adjustments in the fifth, gave myself an opportunity to play a bit more loose,” he said. “That really helped me serve better. I think I kept on moving. I kept on being active to be on these returns that I couldn’t get in the previous sets.”

Can Tsitsipas stay as loose the rest of the way? He’s the highest seed left in the men’s draw, and the clear favorite in his half. His next opponent will be unseeded Jiri Lehecka; on paper, that’s a dream quarterfinal. The ATP’s other big names have made their exits, and the one who is left, Novak Djokovic, is carrying an injury.

Tsitsipas hasn’t often faced the expectations and pressure that a Slam favorite must face. But Melbourne is also the only place where this inveterate globe-trotter can feel like he’s playing in his own backyard.

“Wherever I look I see Greek faces, I see Greek people speaking Greek,” Tsitsipas says of the city. “It’s very important when you’re far away from home to have that sort of feeling, to connect even more with the culture that you’re at.

“The French people have Roland Garros, the Brits have Wimbledon, the Americans have US Open. For me, it’s the Australian Open.”