Spanish young gun Carlos Alcaraz has been sent packing from the Australian Open with a quarter-final loss to German fourth seed Alexander Zverev.
In another late-night encounter on Rod Laver Arena, Olympic champion Zverev put Alcaraz to the sword in the first set two sets and survived a fightback to battle into the semi-finals with a 6-1 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 win early on Thursday morning.
It marked the first victory of Zverev’s career over a top-five ranked opponent at grand slam level and equalled his best result at Melbourne Park.
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The 2020 US Open runner-up will meet Russian world No.3 Daniil Medvedev on Friday for a place in Sunday’s final at Melbourne Park.
For Alcaraz, champion at Wimbledon and the US Open, the Australian Open has become firmly entrenched as his worst grand slam as he begins his fourth year at the top level.
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But he remains content with his run to the quarter-finals in Melbourne after previously never making it beyond the third round.
“I’m sad with my level today because I have been playing good tennis … but in general I leave the tournament happy,” he told reporters.
“Quarter-final of a grand slam is good. It’s not what I’m looking for but it’s not bad.”
Zverev admitted to feeling some butterflies when coming within a game of knocking off world No.2 Alcaraz at 5-2 in the third set.
“We’re all human,” the 26-year-old said.
“It’s a great honour to play against guys like him and then when you’re so close to winning, obviously your brain starts going and it’s not always helpful.
“I fought back quite well in the fourth set, didn’t let go and then very happy to finish the match.”
Alcaraz swept past Zverev in straight sets at the same stage in last year’s US Open, with the German looking ragged after spending almost five hours and 39 minutes longer on court than Alcaraz.
The on-court time discrepancy (five hours and five minutes) was similar leading in to Wednesday’s quarter-final after Zverev survived two five-set epics through the first four rounds — and this time he held on.
Alexander Zverev hails one of his best performances in outplaying Alcaraz on Rod Laver Arena. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP
“I have a lot of blood under my toenails so that’s quite painful,” Zverev said when asked how his body was holding up.
“But, you know what, I would much rather feel the way I’m feeling right now with maybe a bit of pain here and there and be in the semi-finals than be at home right now watching this tournament.”
Battered body aside, it was Zverev who raced out of the blocks to break the 20-year-old Spaniard twice in the first six games.
Alcaraz had to wait until 2-3 in the second set to bring up break point chances but could not convert either and was promptly broken twice to fall in to a two-set hole.
He finally broke Zverev as the German served for the match at 5-3, smiling at the change of ends and eventually extending the match to a fourth following an inspired tiebreak.
Zverev moves on hoping to take a step towards correcting Medvedev’s 11-7 winning record over him, which includes five wins in six meetings last year — including at the season-ending ATP Finals last November.
“He’s been kicking my ass a lot over the last year or so,” said Zverev.
“But maybe this will be it, this will be place.”
– with 7NEWS