MELBOURNE (Reuters) – If having his Australian Open title defence ended early was not painful enough for Roger Federer on Sunday, there was the additional sting of being beaten by a tyro with plenty of similarities to his younger, fearless self.
Sporting a one-handed backhand and a mop of long hair, Stefanos Tsitsipas cared little for reputation or records as he toppled the 37-year-old Swiss master 6-7(11) 7-6(3) 7-5 7-6(5) at a packed Rod Laver Arena.
There was no being overawed by the occasion or freezing in the clutch points, nor any of the failings that have tripped up so many of the young pretenders who have shared a court with the 20-times Grand Slam champion.
There was only composure and brilliance from the 20-year-old Tsitsipas who became Greece’s first Grand Slam quarter-finalist and seems destined for bigger prizes in the near future.
In short, he was not unlike the Federer of the early 2000s who crashed through the game’s titans with fearless abandon and condemned a 35-year-old Andre Agassi to defeat in the 2005 U.S. Open final.
After exiting Melbourne Park without a quarter-final for only the second time in the last 18 years, the Swiss shrugged off a suggestion from John McEnroe that the Rod Laver Arena crowd had just witnessed a “changing of the guard”.
“Yeah, sure. He’s in front of the mic (microphone) a lot,” a downcast Federer told reporters.
“He’s always going to say stuff. I love John. I’ve heard that story the last 10 years. From that standpoint, nothing new there.”