Stefanos Tsitsipas came perilously close to being defaulted at the Australian Open on Tuesday night after hitting a ball in anger and nearly connecting with a ball kid. The Greek star advanced to the semi-finals after dispatching Jiri Lehecka 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 on Rod Lavera Arena.
However the victory didn't come without controversy after Tsitsipas was called out for his 'dangerous' actions in the third set. After losing a point, the third seed angrily whacked a ball at the back wall.
'CLASSLESS': Jelena Ostapenko under fire over 'terrible' gesture
Tsitsipas didn't realise a ball kid had started moving towards the ball, and it nearly connected with the youngster. In the end the ball didn't come too close to hitting the ball kid, but the match nearly ended in disaster for Tsitsipas.
Whoa... 😬 Stefanos Tsitsipas came THIS close to hitting a ball kid out of frustration in an incident eerily reminiscent of Novak Djokovic's controversial US Open default. 😳
🖥️ #AusOpen LIVE | https://t.co/80XjQpwd6J#9WWOS #Tennis pic.twitter.com/yxmOy1xacs
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 24, 2023
"Tsitsipas just got really lucky," Jim Courier said on Channel 9. "He swings in anger and it nearly hits the ball kid, and if it does, he's shaking hands a loser in this match.
"You cannot do that. You have to be careful. That was dangerous."
According to the ATP rule book: "Players shall not violently, dangerously or with anger hit, kick or throw a tennis ball while on the grounds of the tournament site except in the reasonable pursuit of a point during a match (including warm-up). "For purposes of this rule, abuse of balls is defined as intentionally or recklessly hitting a ball out of the enclosure of the court, hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with disregard of the consequences."
Tsitsipas addressed the incident in his post-match press conference, playing down the seriousness of what happened. He said: "I saw the ball kid when the ball came back. I'm a professional tennis player. I was not aiming for the ball kid obviously. I saw the wall, just went back towards the ball.
"The kid, in my eyes, was pretty far away from me. Would have really had to miss to hit that ball kid. Of course, it's not nice even to hit it back towards the wall.
"I personally don't think I hit it too hard. What I did ... definitely I'm not happy about that. I shouldn't have done it. But it was part of the moment. My ball fell short, there was a little bit of frustration there. But things happen."
That was disgraceful from Tsitsipas.
Could have been an instant default.#AusOpen
— Nihit (@nihitsachdeva28) January 24, 2023
Kyrgios was right
— Dre Parlay (@Mr_Lawes) January 24, 2023
He was super lucky…
— Tenniscaaa (@tenniscaaa) January 24, 2023
He doesn’t even apologize
— tennis grapevine (@venusebonystarr) January 24, 2023
Neither Tsitsipas nor Djokovic intentionally hit a ball kid/linesperson, but just a luck made a difference... this time "luckily" Tsitsipas got out of being defaulted https://t.co/x8zcxINhAl
— 井蛙堂 (@seiadoumogera) January 24, 2023
Novak Djokovic incident back in the spotlight
It brought back memories of a similar incident at Wimbledon last year in which Tsitsipas nearly hit a spectator with a ball he hit in frustration. Nick Kyrgios was left fuming when Tsitsipas wasn't defaulted, with the chair umpire allowing the Greek star to continue playing because he didn't hit anyone.
Novak Djokovic was involved in the most infamous default in recent memory when he hit a line judge with a ball he hit in anger at the US Open in 2020. The ball hit the line judge in the neck after Djokovic swiped it away in frustration, leaving officials with little choice but to disqualify him.
"Djokovic got defaulted at the US Open a few years back for swatting a ball ... it hit a linesperson," Courier said on Tuesday night. "But there are still people on the court, and if you hit them, you are automatically disqualified."
Tsitsipas is the highest-ranked player left at the Australian Open and will play Karen Khachanov on Thursday for a spot in the final. Khachanov earlier advanced when Sebastian Korda retired hurt in the third set with a wrist injury.
"It felt different this time from any other match but the most important thing is I found a solution," Tsitsipas said. "It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult ones I had so far in the competition.
"I had to deal with the ground strokes, they were coming over the racquet from the other side of the court much heavier, much deeper. So that was a task in which I really had to put my heart out there and give it my best."
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