The familiar surroundings of Melbourne are providing a level of comfort which could propel Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas to a grand slam breakthrough at the Australian Open – which he calls his “home slam”.
A fourth semi-final berth in the last five years awaits should the world number three conquer unseeded Czech Jiri Lehecka, who has never previously been past the first round at a grand slam, in their quarter-final showdown on Tuesday.
Tsitsipas won his way to the final eight with a hard-fought, five-set win over Italy‘s Jannik Sinner and remains the highest-seeded player in the men’s draw and on a path to his first final at Melbourne Park.
But while the 24-year-old’s tennis has been elite throughout the tournament so far, Tsitsipas revealed just how much comfort he felt, with the conditions, the city and the people in Melbourne and how fitting it would be to take out his first grand slam title there.
“I grew up in a climate that is very similar to the place I come from in southwestern Attica. It always reminds me of home a little bit when I’m here,” he said after his victory.
“The conditions are similar. It’s not very humid, it’s not very tropical. I can say it’s similar to the Athenian Riviera. Another reason, another plus is wherever I look, I see Greek faces, I see Greek people speaking Greek.
“Of course, 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. It feels very welcoming when you’re able to walk around and feel that.
“It’s for sure my home slam; I would consider that, yes, ‘cause Melbourne is the second-biggest city after Athens with the biggest Greek population. I would consider it my home slam.
“The French people have Roland Garros, the Brits have Wimbledon, the Americans have the US Open. For me it’s the Australian Open.”
Despite being the highest remaining seed in the men’s draw, and a $1.14 favourite to take down Lehecka to keep his tournament alive, Tsitsipas said he wasn’t feeling any extra pressure.
“No, no. I play my game. Titles come if I play good. That takes care of itself, I think,” he said.
“If you‘re able to play the best you can produce on the court, I feel like the rest just follows naturally. It’s a natural flow of things. Putting pressure on yourself … we’re all dealing with pressure when we‘re playing.
“For us, we are out there on a different race every single time, a race with different conditions, a race with a different player by our side. That, I think, is something that most players are focused at.
“You have to stay present, otherwise if your mind wanders around, creates sort of scenarios, situations, that’s not really how you can play and peak in your performance.”