Rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas has ended Roger Federer’s hopes of an Australian Open hat-trick with a stunning upset victory on Sunday.
The 20-year-old took the fight to the defending champion and overcame leg cramping in the fourth set to win the match 6-7 (11-13) 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-6 (7-5) in three hours and 45 minutes.
The wait to see if Federer, whose eyes welled up as he left Rod Laver Arena, returns to Melbourne in 2019 has now begun.
Tsitsipas will next face Roberto Bautista Agut, with both players qualifying for a grand slam quarter-final for the first time in their respective careers.
Having never previously progressed beyond the fourth round at a major, the Greek was lost for words after prevailing in a fourth-set tiebreaker.
“There’s nothing I can describe. I’m the happiest man on earth right now. I cannot describe it,” said.
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The 37-year-old Federer set an unwanted career worst in the defeat, failing to convert any of his 12 break points.
“I lost to a better player who was playing very well tonight,” the Swiss great said.
The tone was set for a high-quality encounter in a tense first game that lasted eight minutes.
After prevailing in a tiebreak to take the first set in just shy of an hour, Federer had opportunities to press his advantage but couldn’t finish his work.
The 20-time major winner had four set points on Tsitsipas’s serve at 5-4 but was unable to convert any of them as his junior opponent showed nerves of steel.
Leading two sets to one, Tsitsipas called for a trainer during the fourth set to massage his sore quads but continued to match a stumbling Federer at every opportunity.
Thriller began with dramatic first game
The contest opened with Federer voicing his disapproval with chair umpire James Keothavong after a remarkable opening game.
Serving first in the fourth-round meeting inside Rod Laver Arena, Tsitsipas earned the ire of the umpire when he took longer than the 25-second limit on multiple occasions.
Warned once, the 14th seed was pinged again, docked a first serve and subsequently double-faulted, but the scenes grew more bizarre just a minute later.
With Federer holding advantage in a deuce, a Tsitsipas serve was called out and immediately challenged by the Greek youngster.
When Hawkeye determined the serve was good the point was given to Tsitsipas – angering Federer, who thought it should have been replayed.
“(My return is) in the whole movement, what do you want me to tell you?” the Swiss told Keothavong before levelling a surprising accusation.
“I think you have a bad conscience for giving the guy two warnings. That’s why you’re doing this.”
Tsitsipas went on to hold serve as both players looked to move on from the incident.
Former Australian player Sam Groth believed the umpire was in the wrong.
“I can actually understand Federer being unhappy. I thought that was actually the wrong call,” he said on Channel Nine.
The chair umpire continued to baffle viewers throughout the first set, including American tennis great John McEnroe.
“Keothavong is struggling so far, early in this match, unlike the players,” McEnroe said later.