By Uche Amako
Stefanos Tsitsipas was fortunate not to be kicked out of the Australian Open on Tuesday after almost hitting a ballboy in frustration.
Leading by two sets to love against unseeded Czech Jiri Lehecka, in the eighth game of the third set, Tsitsipas was beaten by a forehand winner down the line from his 21-year-old opponent.
As the ball bounced off the backboard, Tsitsipas angrily hit the ball against it with the ballboy just yards away and forced to hurriedly stop in his tracks.
On commentary for Australian broadcaster Channel Nine, former world No 1 and two-time grand slam winner Jim Courier said: "Tsitsipas just got really lucky. He swings in anger and nearly hits the ball kid. If it does, he is shaking hands as a loser in this match. You cannot do that, you have to be careful. That was dangerous.
"Linespeople are gone. [Novak] Djokovic got defaulted at the US Open a few years back for swatting the ball and it hit a linesperson. But there are still people on the court and if you hit them you are automatically disqualified."
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Tsitsipas defended himself, insisting the ball wasn't close to hitting the ballboy.
"I saw the ball kid when the ball came back," he said. "I'm a professional tennis player. I was not aiming for the ball kid obviously. I saw the wall, just went back towards the wall. The ball 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. But doesn't matter. Doesn't matter. 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."
Two games later, Tsitsipas moved through to the semi-finals, beating Lehecka 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-4.
Lehecka had defeated Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime to make the last eight but was broken in his first service game and, although he put on a creditable display, it was not enough to take a set from Tsitsipas.
"I can say it was a fair dinkum type of performance," Tsitsipas said on court. "It felt different this time from the other time we played but I found a solution. I had to deal with groundstrokes that were coming at me heavy and deep. I put my heart out there."
Tsitsipas will now take on Karen Khachanov in the semi-finals on Friday.
Tsitsipas played a brilliant tiebreak in the second set. He showed his class. He was looking to dictate and be aggressive.
Tsitsipas's serving unbelievably well. It's become a huge weapon. He's figured out how to hit pretty precise. He's got the power.
Watch every match from the Australian Open live and exclusive on discovery+ and Eurosport
Tsitsipas makes appeal to Margot Robbie
Australia is such a great country. One of my favourite actresses comes from here - Margot Robbie! It would be nice to see her over there one day!
More Tsitsipas reaction
I like a lot of things in Australia, the people are very welcoming. I’ve said that so many times but I’ll keep saying it, because it’s very true. I grew up in a place that’s very similar in terms of conditions and lifestyle. I find myself feeling at home when I’m here.
It felt different this time from any other match, but the most important thing was that I found a solution.
It was a very difficult three-setter, one of the most difficult ones that I’ve had so far in the competition. I think Jiri had a very good tournament. He’s someone who has started playing well recently and I wish him the very best for the future.
WATCH Tsitsipas risks default with angry reaction
At 12:27, I mentioned how Tsitsipas just missed a ball kid when striking the ball against the back fence.
Watch below to see how close he came.
Tsitsipas* 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-4 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Backhand into the net by Lehecka, 15-15. He hits back with an overhead winner, 30-15. Forehand from Lehecka goes long, 30-30. Big point coming up.
Tsitsipas cross court backhand winner, match point. Lehecka backhand into the net. GAME SET MATCH TSITSIPAS
Tsitsipas is through to the last four.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (2), 5-4 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Three errors by Lehecka and an ace from Tsitsipas allows him to hold serve easily. Lehecka will serve next to stay in the match.
Tsitsipas* 6-3, 7-6 (2), 4-4 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Lehecka double fault, 0-30. Another serve and volley winner by the Czech, 15-30. Then a crushing forehand winner down the line, 30-30. Tsitsipas could’ve hit the ball kid there when whacking the ball at the back fence.
Lehecka overhead winner, 40-30. Lehecka ace to hold. Lehecka gets himself out of trouble.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (2), 4-3 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Dipping return by Lehecka means Tsitsipas has a tough half volley, the ball sits up nicely and Lehecka finishes the point with a forehand winner, 0-30.
Tsitsipas double fault, 0-40. Tsitsipas saves the first break point. Then the second with a forehand winner, 40-30. Huge reaction from Tsitsipas as an ace down the T makes it deuce.
Massive hitting by Lehecka as he tries to break Tsitsipas down, he approaches the net but nets a volley, ad Tsitsipas. Tsitsipas mis-hits a backhand wide. Tsitsipas forehand winner earns him the game.
Eight break points have come and gone for Lehecka in this match.
Tsitsipas* 6-3, 7-6 (2), 3-3 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Frustration for Tsitsipas after a couple of avoidable errors. An ace by Lehecka allows him to hold to 15.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (2), 3-2 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
The games are whistling by at this stage of the match. The returners are struggling at the moment.
Tsitsipas holds to love.
Tsitsipas* 6-3, 7-6 (2), 2-2 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Lehecka is matching Tsitsipas stride for stride. No breaks of serve since the second game of the match.
Lehecka holds to love with a backhand winner.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (2), 2-1 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Tsitsipas has been imperious on serve today. Six aces, 68 per cent of first serves in, 82 per cent of points won on his first serve and 58 per cent of points won on his second serve.
He holds to 15.
Tsitsipas* 6-3, 7-6 (2), 1-1 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Danger signs for Lehecka as he sends a backhand long, 30-30. But he stays cool against a dipping Tsitsipas backhand and finishes with a drop volley winner, 40-30.
And he holds with an ace.
Third set: Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (2), 1-0 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Five winners and 0 unforced errors from Tsitsipas to win the second set tie-break. Really impressive tennis.
He holds here to 15 to maintain his momentum.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (2) Lehecka - TIEBREAK
Tsitsipas forehand winner, 6-1. Tsitsipas nets a backhand return, 6-2.
Too good from Tsitsipas as he blasts a cross court forehand winner past Lehecka, 7-2.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-6 Lehecka - TIEBREAK
14 shot rally and Lehecka is the first to break, sending a backhand long, 1-0. Brilliant 152km/h forehand winner by Tsitsipas, 2-0. 196km/h Tsitsipas ace, 3-0.
Attacking tennis by Tsitsipas to get Lehecka on the back foot and the Greek finishes the rally with an overhead winner, 4-0. 196km/h Lehecka ace, 4-1. Wide Tsitsipas serve is unreturned, 5-1.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-6 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Tsitsipas eases to 40-0 and on the brink of a tiebreak. He then misses a forehand down the line, 40-15.
But he gets the job done when Lehecka nets a defensive backhand.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 5-6 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Lehecka books himself at least a tiebreak after a love hold. Really impressive serving from the Czech.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 5-5 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Tsitsipas starts the game with a wrong footing forehand winner. But he shanks a forehand high and long to let Lehecka into the game, 30-15.
Poor backhand into the net by Tsitsipas, 30-30. Tsitsipas responds with an ace, 40-30 and holds serve when Lehecka makes a forehand error.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 4-5 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
This is the best level of Lehecka so far. He races to 40-0 and holds to 15 when Tsitsipas sends a forehand long.
Tsitsipas will serve next to stay in the set.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 4-4 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Tsitsipas closes the net well and finishes expertly with a volley winner, 30-0. Lehecka hits back with a backhand winner down the line.
But Tsitsipas then hits his third ace of the match, 40-15. And he holds to 30 when Lehecka nets a forehand return.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 3-4 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Lehecka double fault, 15-15. Explosive ball striking from Lehecka allows the Czech to come through another service game.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 3-3 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
After the struggling of the previous service game, Tsitsipas will be grateful for the routine love hold in this game.
Approaching the business end of the net now...
Tsitsipas* 6-3, 2-3 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Solid at the net by Lehecka again as Tsitsipas goes at him with a backhand pass, 15-15. Lehecka double fault, 30-30.
He responds with an ace, just his second of the match, 40-30. Lehecka holds when Tsitsipas' return is long.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 2-2 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Excellent start by Lehecka as he fires a forehand return for a winner past Tsitsipas. Tsitsipas hits back with a forehand winner of his own, 15-15.
Tsitsipas backhand into the net, 15-30. Lehecka on the attack with a series of forehands, he gets a short ball and whips a cross court backhand that barely catches the side, two break points.
Tsitsipas saves the first break point with a big first serve. And the second when Lehecka goes after a Tsitsipas second serve and sends a forehand return long.
Lehecka earns another chance when he takes the rally to Tsitsipas and the Greek's defensive lob goes long. Lehecka forehand down the line hits the net cord but the ball drops on his side of the court.
Tsitsipas shanks a forehand wide and high, fourth break point. Lehecka nets a backhand return, deuce.
More aggressive tennis by Lehecka, taking it to Tsitsipas and finishing with a forehand winner, fifth break point. Another poor return from Lehecka.
Lehecka makes another return error and Tsitsipas comes through that major scare.
Tsitsipas* 6-3, 1-2 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Double fault by Lehecka, 15-15. He responds with a careful forehand into the corner which spins away for a winner, 30-15.
Another approach into the net by Lehecka results in a volley winner, 40-30. He is very comfortable at the net, looks like a natural.
Lehecka forehand winner, deuce. And he comes through that test when Tsitsipas puts a forehand long.
Tsitsipas 6-3, 1-1 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Lehecka reads a Tsitsipas serve down the T and whips a forehand return winner down the line.
'Poor shot by Tsitsipas' says Tim Henman after the Greek sends a forehand wide. But Tsitsipas responds with a forehand winner, 30-30.
Lehecka backhand into the net, 40-30. Tsitsipas keeps his head after some big hitting from Lehecka and finishes the point with a backhand volley winner.
Second set: Tsitsipas* 6-3, 0-1 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Lehecka races to 40-0 but Tsitsipas pegs him back to 40-30 after two forehand winners.
But Lehecka responds with a forehand winner of his own to take the game.
Tsitsipas 6-3 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Ace by Tsitsipas to open the game. Lehecka then sends a forehand return long, 30-0.
First double fault of the match by Tsitsipas, 30-15. Lehecka backhand long, two set points.
Tsitsipas takes it on the first with a big first serve down the T. Impressive stuff by Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas* 5-3 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Couple of wild returns by Tsitsipas gives Lehecka an early lead in this game. Tsitsipas and Lehecka go toe-to-toe in a forehand rally but the latter breaks down first sending the ball into the net, 30-30.
Lehecka gets the service hold when Tsitsipas puts a forehand down the line long. The Greek will serve for the set next.
Tsitsipas 5-2 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
197km/h ace from Tsitsipas, 30-15. He's won 79 per cent of points on serve.
Good body serve by Tsitsipas puts Lehecka in a tricky spot, the Greek comes forward and finishes with a volley winner.
Tsitsipas moves to within a game of the set when Lehecka puts a forehand return wide.
Tsitsipas* 4-2 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Lehecka's turn to hold to love on serve. The young Czech appears to have settled down now.
Tsitsipas 4-1 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Really impressive serving from Tsitsipas. He's making plenty of first serves, finding his spots and gaining quick points.
He finishes this game with some serve and volley, giving Lehecka no chance.
Tsitsipas* 3-1 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Too many errors from the baseline early on for Lehecka which is making life tough for him.
But he has been very secure at the net. He hits another lovely volley at the net, 30-15. Lehecka finally gets on the scoreboard when Tsitsipas sends a forehand return wide.
Tsitsipas 3-0 Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Perfect service game by Tsitsipas. He finds four first serves and holds to love in less than 90 seconds to consolidate the break.
Tsitsipas* 2-0 Lehecka (*denotes first server)
Tsitsipas going on the attack in Lehecka's opening service game. But an unforced error with his return off a second serve makes it 30-30.
Tsitsipas sliced a defensive backhand into the net after a careful approach from Lehecka, 40-30. Back-to-back backhand errors by Lehecka gives Tsitsipas a break point.
Serve and volley from Lehecka and he finishes with a deft backhand volley winner. Lehecka forehand error, second break point.
Ace by Lehecka. Another forehand error by Lehecka, third break point. Tsitsipas forehand wide, deuce. That was a bad miss. A fourth break point for Tsitsipas comes and goes.
Lehecka is struggling to get out of this game and finally at the fifth time of asking Tsitsipas makes the breakthrough. Lehecka attacks the net again but Tsitsipas reaches the ball and puts a lob which Lehecka reaches but sens his backhand overhead wide.
First set: Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-0 Jiri Lehecka* (*denotes first server)
Well played Lehecka. These early stages are important and he shows some nice feel to lift a lob over Tsitsipas' head, 40-30.
The game goes to deuce when Tsitsipas nets a tame backhand into the net.
But Tsitsipas survives that slight scare to hold when Lehecka puts a forehand into the tramlines.
We are about to find out!
Tsitsipas has won all five of his previous Grand Slam quarterfinal matches. Will Lehecka be the one to end that streak?
Here we go!
The two players enter Rod Laver Arena with Tsitsipas probably getting the bigger cheer.
Elsewhere in Melbourne...
It is the ninth time Victoria Azarenka has reached a Grand Slam semi-final and the first time she has done so at the Australian Open since 2013
Who is Jiri Lehecka?
The unseeded 21-year-old made his main draw debut in all four majors last year and lost in the first round
He is currently ranked 71st in the world
His father Jiri was a professional swimmer and his mother Romana a professional track-and-field athlete
He broke into the top 100 last February
He was beaten in the Next Gen ATP Finals in November
Aiming for the final four
Good morning and welcome to coverage of the second men's quarter-final of the Australian Open between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jiri Lehecka.
Tsitsipas starts the match as favourite as he continues his bid to win the first grand slam of his career. The Greek star needed five sets to beat Italy's Jannik Sinner on Sunday and is now aiming to reach the last four in Melbourne for the fourth time.
Lehecka has enjoyed a tournament to remember, knocking out seeds Borna Coric, Cameron Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach the quarter-finals of a major for the first time.
The two players have met just once before, in Rotterdam last year with Tsitsipas coming through in three sets.
And Lehecka says he is desperate to get one over the three seed.
"I will go for that revenge, for sure. I know that he will remember how we played last year in Rotterdam. One set I was the better player on the court," he said. "Then he overtook the match. But I think that he will remember, and he will know what my strengths are. He will feel that I can get him under the pressure. At the same time I know that he's a great player. I mean, he's No. 4 in the world. Anyway, I mean, if you are in top 10, then you must show some extraordinary tennis.
"I know how to play against him. Of course, the match last year from Rotterdam semifinal will help me a lot, how to imagine some things, how it went over there, how to prepare for this next matchup."
The winner of this match will play Karen Khachanov in the semi-finals later this week. The 26-year-old reached the last four when his opponent Sebastian Korda retired with a wrist injury while trailing 7-6(5) 6-3 3-0.