ATP

Stefanos Tsitsipas targets Australian Open final after flying finish

After reaching the semifinals in 2019, in-form Stefanos Tsitsipas is bidding to go one better when the Australian Open returns next month.

Stefanos Tsitsipas has made a flying finish to the year and is now setting his sights on reaching the Australian Open final in 2020.

The 21-year-old won the ATP Finals to conclude the 2019 season and has followed up that fine form with a run to the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship that included wins over Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic.

Tsitsipas lost an epic final in Abu Dhabi to Rafael Nadal, who along with Djokovic agreed the Greek had the ability to meet his ambitious goal to break up the big three in 2020, though warned him it would not be easy to do so.

The Australian Open was the scene of Tsitsipas’ best major performance of his career to date at the start of this year, as he defeated Roger Federer, one of the men he is hoping to move above in the ATP rankings this season, in the fourth round.

An impressive Melbourne campaign also saw him defeat the likes of Matteo Berrettini, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Roberto Bautista Agut before Nadal halted his progress in their semifinal meeting.

With that track record and after reaching at least the quarterfinals of his last five events of 2019 to end up at number six in the world before his impressive displays in Abu Dhabi, Tsitsipas told reporters he is aiming for the final of the first Grand Slam of the new campaign.

“I want to do even better than I did last year, that’s for sure,” Stefanos Tsitsipas said of the Australian Open.

“It’s about trying to play my best at every location. I am happy where I am already and I am trying to improve to get better, so there is nothing to worry about.

“I’m trying to eliminate the stress and that also comes from experience. This year was the first time I had ranking points to defend and I was very stressed as it was my first time experiencing something like this.

“I feel like you have to be relaxed and not think about it because this year I was tense and putting a lot of pressure on myself. If it comes, it comes; I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”

Tsitsipas paid tribute to his fans after he was well supported in Abu Dhabi, something that is likely to happen again in Australia where there is a large Greek population.

He added: “Obviously, fan support plays an important role. It is a huge advantage for me, playing in Australia.

“It can be difficult sometimes when I get messages and lots of people expect replies from me, but I love my fans because they make me feel like a football team: Tsitsipas Football Club.”

Next up for Tsitsipas is the ATP Cup where, he will represent a Greece team that is lacking the depth of many other nations playing at the tournament.

Then will come the Adelaide International, where he is poised to be second seed behind Djokovic, who has made the unusual move to play in the week immediately before a Grand Slam.

Djokovic is on 16 major titles, three behind Nadal and four behind record holder Federer as the trio battle to end their careers with the most Slams.

But after the big three dominated the last three years of Grand Slam tennis, all have agreed the chasing pack are getting closer than ever and there is a good chance they will not have all four majors to themselves this time around.

Tsitsipas has stated his case and received plenty of backing, while the form of Daniil Medvedev in the second half of last season took him to the brink of US Open glory.

Alexander Zverev and Denis Shapovalov are among the other names tipped for a big year in 2020.

With his goals about reaching the top three of the rankings and the Australian Open final now out in the open, Stefanos Tsitsipas will perhaps be the player the big three have their eyes on most when the draw is made.