A Federer-Nadal double? Even historic scalps may not be enough for Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas will have to achieve a feat no one has previously accomplished to win the Australian Open.
The 20-year-old Greek sensation has thrilled fans in Melbourne, embarking on a career-best run to the semi-finals.
Tsitsipas has already beaten his idol Roger Federer in the fourth round, but his route to a potential final appearance highlights the difficulties facing the 'Next Gen' in their bid to win a major. Having already stunned Federer, Tsitsipas must now beat Nadal, the modern-day great who has won 17 grand slams – three fewer than the Swiss star.
Only two men have beaten Federer and Nadal at the same major and neither did it in Melbourne. Juan Martin del Potro got past both to win the 2009 US Open and Novak Djokovic overcame the greats to claim the same tournament two years later.
Nadal beat Tsitsipas twice in straight-sets last year, although he was pushed to a tie-break in the Rogers Cup final in August.
Speaking after his quarter-final win over Roberto Bautista Agut at Melbourne Park, Tsitsipas said: "I felt very close to beating him [Nadal] in Toronto, though the score was 6-2, 7-6. I remember coming back to the locker room and promising to myself I'm going to do much better against him next time.
"It felt like I understood a bit better what he was doing on the court after that match, and especially on a hard court. On clay, it was a different story. I felt like I had no chance after losing in Barcelona 6-1, 6-2. I felt like he's on completely another level on clay than on hard."
The Spaniard is flying in Melbourne and, at this stage, may be the favourite to win just his second Australian Open title. For the first time since his success in 2009, Nadal has reached the semi-finals without dropping a set and he's done it quickly, having so often pushed into marathon matches in the past.
Already endearing himself to the Melbourne public, and potentially having a souvlaki named after him in the Victorian capital, Tsitsipas – the youngest grand slam semi-finalist since Djokovic at the 2007 US Open – could add to his growing heroics on Thursday. And, if he does, he will likely have to shock the world once more in Sunday's final.
Standing in his way is likely to be Djokovic, a record six-time Australian Open champion and the world number one who faces Lucas Pouille in the other last-four clash. No player has ever gone through Federer, Nadal and Djokovic on their way to winning a grand slam.
Part two, and history, awaits Tsitsipas on Thursday, and even then he may have a huge step to take to achieve the ultimate success.