Australian Open: Tsitsipas kick-starts No. 1 bid with comfortable first-round win

Stefanos Tsitsipas is playing for a double prize at the Australian Open. The Greek started his campaign like a man on a mission on Monday at Melbourne Park, where he eased past Quentin Halys 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(6) to reach the Australian Open second round.

The 24-year-old Tsitsipas, who reached the semifinals at the opening Grand Slam of the season in 2019, 2021, and 2022, is chasing his maiden major crown. Should the third seed go all the way in Melbourne, he would also overtake the injured Carlos Alcaraz to become No. 1 in the ATP Rankings for the first time.

He will meet home wild card Rinky Hijikata, who battled back to beat Yannick Hanfmann 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3, in the second round.

“It was challenging. He came up with some good tennis towards the end of the third set. I kind of lost my rhythm on the serve. I wasn’t expecting to get broken twice, so I had to find ways to kind of get out of there, this difficult situation,” Tsitsipas was quoted as saying by ATP tour.

“I think my fighting spirit showed that towards the end. I wasn’t going to give up and even though I faced difficult situations in the tie-break, being down in the score, I got some good crowd support and we came back and won this together.”

A barnstorming start from the Greek severely reduced the chances of a third Halys victory in a row, however, as the World No.4 deployed his serve and forehand to good effect en route to taking a commanding two-sets-to-love lead without facing a break point.

From 0-2 down, Halys reeled off four games in a row with some imaginative all-court tennis to drag himself back into the contest. A pair of double faults in the seventh game cost him the break lead, but he then made Tsitsipas fend off four set points in a tense 12th game to force a tie-break.

The Frenchman again had his chances in the tie-break, opening an early 4/2 lead, but Tsitsipas found his big-stage quality when he needed it most. Frequently dictating play with his forehand, he ultimately converted his second match point to seal a victory in which he struck 46 winners, including 17 aces.

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