Forget Paris: Is Djokovic playing mind games with Tsitsipas?

Novak Djokovic raised eyebrows in his press conference after eliminating Alex de Minaur, appearing to forget that Stefanos Tsitsipas had played in a grand slam final before.

Making it all the more surprising was that Djokovic played Tsitsipas in that final, at the 2021 French Open, when the Greek star won the first two sets before losing 6-7 (6-8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Novak Djokovic ,right, and Stefanos Tsitsipas after the 2021 French Open final.Credit:AP

Reminded of this, his memory suddenly returned: “That’s right. Sorry, my bad. I wanted to compliment him because he’s someone who looks ready to go for the title, and the way he has been playing, he’s been coming closer and closer.”

Was Djokovic simply forgetful, or is he playing sophisticated mind games – 4D chess, let’s say – with the highest-ranked player left in the draw?

After all, Djokovic has won 21 grand slam titles from a record 32 finals, compared to Tsitsipas’ one.

Full bore: Millman’s dull tactics to tame Federer

The secret behind John Millman’s impressive record against retired Swiss legend Roger Federer can finally be revealed – and it might help settle some scores in the GOAT debate.

The 33-year-old Queenslander famously upset the 20-time grand slam champion, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-3), to reach the 2018 US Open quarter-finals, the deepest he has ever gone at a major.

It may have been Millman’s sole triumph over Federer in four career meetings, but they were all close, with the tone set in their opening clash eight years ago in Brisbane.

John Millman, right, congratulates Roger Federer after their third-round showdown at the 2020 Australian Open.Credit:Getty Images

Millman pinched the first set on that occasion, before Federer fought back to win. Federer also edged past him on Halle’s grass – needing a first-set tie-breaker – then outlasted the Australian in five sets in the third round at the 2020 Australian Open.

“That Brisbane match was very important to give myself the belief that my game matched up well against Roger,” Millman said.

“I always felt with Roger that I would try to bore him with quality cross-court patterns, and hope that he would lose interest and try his more ‘flairy’ shots.

“Roger was very different, in that sense, to Rafa [Nadal] and Novak [Djokovic], where you always felt there might be some unforced errors available because he would try so many different styles. My game is aided when my opponent is making unforced errors.”

Rare retirement

American rising star Sebastian Korda’s fairytale chase to match his father Petr’s Australian Open title heroics 25 years on is over, and in unfortunate circumstances.

The 22-year-old reached the Adelaide final to start his season, where he lost to Novak Djokovic in a three-hour-plus epic, then won his way through to a maiden grand slam quarter-final at Melbourne Park.

But Korda quickly fell behind Russia’s Karen Khachanov then played catch-up all day, only to retire with a right wrist injury while trailing 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-0.

He sought a medical timeout in the second set for the problem and played on with strapping on the wrist, but pulled the pin before the finish.

Interestingly, Korda’s mid-match retirement was the first in either the men’s or women’s singles draw at this year’s tournament.

Shades of Hingis

The unforgettable Martina Hingis won the first of her five grand slam titles at the Australian Open in 1997.

One of the major reasons the former world No.1 was so popular was her elegant, skilful, high-IQ game that did not rely on excess power to succeed.

Retired Slovakian star-turned-commentator Daniela Hantuchova, who won her first WTA title over Hingis at Indian Wells in 2002, was reminded of the ‘Swiss Miss’ while watching Czech sensation Linda Fruhvirtova’s fourth-round run at Melbourne Park this year.

Fruhvirtova is only 17 but will be on the cusp of a top-50 ranking after her breakout Open performance, while her 15-year-old sister Brenda remarkably qualified for the main draw and is already ranked No.136.

“I already saw Linda two, three years ago, and, obviously, they’re both very special,” Hantuchova said.

“They remind me, especially Linda, a little bit of Martina Hingis, as far as her shot selection goes, at such a young age. She’s so smart as far as big points. She plays the right way, which is unusual for her age.

“I remember myself – I would hit the fence or make too many unforced errors, whereas she’s very mature for her age. I think that’s one of her strengths.”

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