The German lost the opening two sets to his younger opponent but was 5-3 up and 15-15 on the Tsitsipas serve when the Greek hit a deep shot that was called out by a line judge – at about the same time Zverev sliced his forehand return into the net.
However, after umpire Renaud Lichtenstein came down to inspect the mark, he overruled the call and gave Tsitsipas the point, leaving Zverev apoplectic as the 24-year-old felt the line judge had made the call before his shot into the net and that he would have made more of an effort on the return if the ball had been called in.
Alexander Zverev was enraged with the umpire’s decision to overrule the line judge’s call
Renaud Lichtenstein felt the call came after Zverev had hit Stefanos Tsitsipas’ shot into the net
‘You cannot tell me the call came before the shot,’ Zverev fumed. ‘I hit it in the middle of the racquet. It was a frame shot winner. I hit a squash shot.
‘I could have hit a normal shot. You’re telling me I had no chance of putting that ball into the court? That’s bulls***!’
Eventually, Zverev had to admit defeat and return to the baseline and although Tsitsipas held his serve to make his opponent serve for the set, Zverev held his nerve to keep himself in the contest.
The 6’6” man then seized the momentum, winning the fourth set before Tsitsipas came up trumps in the decider to secure a 6-3 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-3 victory.
For Tsitsipas there were tears of joy as he became the first player from the tennis backwater of Greece to make a Grand Slam final.
After compatriot Maria Sakkari having agonisingly missed out in the women’s event, the 22-year-old Greek fulfilled his destiny by taking the first slot in Sunday’s Roland Garros championship match.
In a tense encounter he managed to edge out Germany’s Alex Zverev to win what was his fourth semi-final at one of the majors.
The match took a sapping three hours and 37 minutes, meaning that the start to the semi-final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — he will meet the winner — was delayed until 7.10pm.
Given how long best-of-five set matches last on clay courts, it was a stunningly inept decision of the French Open not to start the opener until 3pm, especially when they knew there is an 11pm curfew currently in place.
Zverev then composed himself to take his first set of the match and extend the contest in Paris
Of course none of this was of concern to Tsitsipas in his hour of victory. After clinching the win, he needed to choke back emotion as he contemplated his achievement.
‘All I can think of is my roots, where I came from,’ he said. ‘I came from a really small place outside of Athens. My dream was to play here, my dream to play on the big stage of the French Open one day. I would have never thought I would.
‘It was nerve-wracking, it was so intense, the fifth set, first game. It was the most important game and I stayed alive, I had the crowd with me, they were cheering me on, giving me their energy.
‘I felt like there was hope, there were opportunities for me to fight back, especially when you are treated this way. The only job is to go out there and fight.
‘That is what I did. It was difficult, very emotional, I went through a lot of phases of emotional breakdowns but this win means a lot. This is the most important one of my career so far.’
Zverev was distraught at his inability to finish off what had been an impressive comeback.
However, it was Tsitsipas who came up trumps to reach his first-ever Grand Slam final
‘The next 3 days I won’t be in the mood to talk to anybody. I’m walking away if someone wants to speak,’ he said. ‘I played s*** the first two sets, I have to do a better job.’
Overall there can be little doubt that he had lost to the more complete player, the one who is the most rounded among the clutch of challengers trying to depose the big two.
Tsitsipas has a game for all corners of the court and for all different surfaces and it is why, even if it does not happen this weekend, he will surely win multiple Grand Slams at different venues before the end of his career.
Zverev can beat him for sheer firepower, particularly with his blockbuster first serve, but there are areas in which he still falls short, such as his forehand and second serve.
The Greek was happy to trade forehands with him, and did not even have to be at his best in the first two sets to gain a decisive advantage.
Fired by his first serve, Zverev came back impressively, but the match turned when Tsitsipas fought off break points at the start of the decider and then made the break which he managed to defend with relative ease.
Novak Djokovic or 13-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal will meet Tsitsipas on Sunday
He has come a long way from his childhood, learning the game in the holiday resorts close to Athens where his parents coached the game.
If he was emotional during the match then he has the ability to hide it well, appearing to maintain a phlegmatic calm, even when the German came back at him.
He will need all that and more in the final as he tries to strike a blow for the younger generation so far been stifled by their elders.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer has revealed that he will be without his four children for his stay in London when takes another tilt at the Wimbledon title.
The 39-year-old Swiss, who is playing next week’s grass court tournament in the German town of Halle, said he would be leaving his two sets of twins behind because of UK quarantine rules.
Wimbledon is operating in a strict bubble this year, with players all confined to a hotel in Westminster. Players are able to bring in limited numbers of support staff under an exemption scheme but children do not qualify unless they are prepared to self-isolate.
Roger Federer said he would be without his children at Wimbledon due to quarantine rules
With Boris Johnson making his announcement on Monday about whether the country can fully open up, the All England Club are still waiting to see the size of crowds they will be allowed in.
For weeks they have been lobbying to allow in more of those who can prove they have been twice jabbed, in the hope of doubling the planned total of around 10,000 spectators per day.