By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Stefanos Tsitsipas staved off the incendiary Benoit Paire to reach the Australian Open fourth round on Saturday after a tough 6-3 7-5 6-7(2) 6-4 but was oblivious that he had won after converting match point.
Paire dunked a forehand into the net on the first of three match points on a steamy afternoon at Rod Laver Arena, but fourth seed Tsitsipas walked to the back of the court rather than approach the net as fans cheered in the terraces.
The Greek turned on his heel with surprise on his face when the result was called over the loudspeaker by the chair umpire.
He then jogged forward to acknowledge Paire before bounding around the court with a proper celebration.
A twice semi-finalist at Melbourne Park, Tsitsipas was spared queries on the faux pas by the on-court interviewer.
“I’m pretty glad with that win, Benoit is someone I say is one of the biggest stars in our game,” he told him.
It was a second helping of confusion for Tsitsipas in the match, having been cautioned for courtside coaching earlier in the contest.
“I have no idea,” Tsitsipas told reporters of the warning.
“I was really far away from my coach, and with my back facing the other way, so I was just laughing because I don’t know where that came from. It was completely unexpected.”
Most other things went well for Tsitsipas on the day, barring the third set tiebreak, where he inexplicably crumbled to let Paire back in the match.
Tsitsipas was then on the back foot against the Frenchman, who kept in touch with a net-rushing bravado while knocking the Greek off his stride with some deft drop shots.
However, Tsitsipas found solace in his serve, which was virtually untouchable until 4-4 in the final set when he came under some pressure at 30-30.
Paire swore and berated himself after letting Tsitsipas off the hook with errors and then served up a double-fault to gift the Greek match points.
French Open finalist Tsitsipas will meet American Taylor Fritz for a place in the quarter-finals, as he continues his bid for a first Grand Slam title.
“Big server, big hitter. He has weapons,” he said of Fritz.
“I will really have to stay consistent and keep pushing him back.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Louise Heavens)