French Open tennis - Stefanos Tsitsipas makes history as he beats Alexander Zverev in thriller to reach final
Fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas showed all his class and supreme form as he battled past Alexander Zverev, 6-3 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-3 in their semi-final clash at Roland Garros on Friday afternoon. The Greek star, who was playing in his third successive Grand Slam semi-final, had to hold his nerve in a dramatic deciding set. Tsitsipas will now face either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal in the final.
Highlights: Tsitsipas makes history with thrilling win over Zverev
Stefanos Tsitsipas made history for his country on Friday as he beat Alexander Zverev in a five-set classic to reach the final of the 2021 French Open. He became the first Greek to make a Grand Slam final in the process, in what is an enormous moment for Tsitsipas and for Greece, and he was very emotional in his on-court interview.
The 22-year-old has now amassed a tour-leading 39 match wins on the season, including 22 on clay courts and on Sunday he will attempt to win his first Grand Slam title. Either 13-time champion at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal, or world number one Novak Djokovic will await him.
Tsitsipas, who was playing in his third successive Grand Slam semi-final, finally managed to go one step further as he battled past Zverev in three hours and 37 minutes to reach his maiden final in Sunday's showpiece.
Holding a 5-3 lead with a break and with Tsitsipas serving, the initial line call following a deep forehand from the Greek was 'out'. The umpire leapt out of his chair and overruled, deeming that it was actually in.
But Zverev was furious because he felt he was in position to make a play on the ball and that, in overruling, the umpire essentially gave Tsitsipas a point that was still to be contested - but for the initial call of 'out'.
It was a very contentious moment at a crucial point, and Zverev proceeded to let rip at the umpire in a furious rant at the net while also protesting to the match referee on the side of the court.
'It's on again!' - Zverev takes Tsitsipas clash into a decider
For Zverev, it was another hugely frustrating defeat in the latter stages of a Slam and the German simply could not keep his level up after roaring back from two sets down to take the match into a decider.
Tsitsipas mixed up his play very impressively throughout and deserved the win, despite the mid-match slump, having found a crucial resurgence in the final set with more attacking and assertive play.
"My dream was to play here, to play at the big stage at the French Open. I never would have thought that I would.
'Unbelievably emotional' - Wilander on Tsitsipas' win over Zverev
"It was nerve-wracking and so intense. I came back and stayed alive, I had the crowd with me, who were giving me their energy.
It was very difficult and very emotional. This win means a lot. This win is the most important one of my career so far.
"There were a lot of people in Greece cheering for me and I am very happy that Greece is part of the tennis community more now. I'm very happy that me and Maria [Sakkari] have been keeping the hopes of Greek tennis alive."
All eyes will now be on Djokovic and Nadal in Friday's second semi-final on Court Philippe Chatrier with the pair facing off in what is a repeat of last year's final, which the Spaniard won for his 13th crown in Paris.
Djokovic, 34, has only won the French Open once, in 2016, compared to Nadal's 13 titles at Roland Garros, with both men in the hunt to end their careers with the most Grand Slam titles to their names.
Tsitsipas has won three of his seven ATP Tour crowns on the red dirt, including Monte Carlo and Lyon this year, but can he go one step further at Roland Garros? We will find out on Sunday.