Former Grand Slam champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov has revealed that he was surprised by how the quarters clash between Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open panned out in the end.
Trailing by two sets against the 20-time Grand Slam champion, the current World Number 6 stormed back to win the next three and book himself a berth in the last-four.
Tsitsipas will go up against World Number 4 Daniil Medvedev later on Friday in the battle to set up a title clash with top-seed Novak Djokovic.
The former Russian star said that he did not expect the Greek to stage the glorious fightback that he did after going two sets down in the contest.
In an interview, the two-time former Grand Slam champion said that he believed that Nadal’s wealth of experience and superior track record in crunch matches at marquee events would tip the scales in his favor. “It was shocking for me that Rafa lost three straight sets,” Kafelnikov said.
However, Kafelnikov was effusive in his praise for the long-haired Greek, calling him “a great player”. “He (Tsitsipas) is very talented and he has got the skills to be one of the very best,” said the Russian legend, in his glowing assessment of the 2019 ATP Finals champion.
Detailing features and aspects of Tsitsipas’ game that have left him deeply impressed, Kafelnikov said that he “serves well, moves around the court really well and is adept at the net”, making him a handful against the best of opponents on his day.
The Russian said that he was not surprised by the Greek’s run of wins at this year’s Australian Open but conceded that he did expect “Rafa’s experience to be the deciding factor” in the last-eight clash.
In a game of wildly swinging fortunes, there wasn’t much to separate the two players across five grueling sets as both recorded similar service numbers and were also close to hitting an identical number of winning points.
Tsitsipas sent down 17 aces to Nadal’s 15, while both almost ran up the same percentage of points won on the first serve. It was the Greek’s win in the third-set tiebreaker that was arguably the turning point in the contest.