Alcaraz targeting 'best level' to beat Zverev at Australian Open

Zverev, who beat British 19th seed Cameron Norrie to progress, lost to Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of last year's US Open

By AFP

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Carlos Alcaraz of Spain plays a forehand return to Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia. — AP
Carlos Alcaraz of Spain plays a forehand return to Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia. — AP

Published: Mon 22 Jan 2024, 6:11 PM

Carlos Alcaraz said he would have to play at his "best level" in his Australian Open quarterfinal with Alexander Zverev after producing a masterclass against unseeded Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday.

The second seed -- seen as the biggest threat to defending champion Novak Djokovic -- did not face a single break point in a dominant performance, rolling over his opponent 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 in one hour 49 minutes.

The Spaniard, who chose not to play any competitive tennis in the build-up to the first Grand Slam of the year, said he "did everything perfectly" at Rod Laver Arena.

But he admitted he would have to find another gear against sixth seed Zverev, who won their most recent meeting at the ATP Finals to lead their head-to-head 4-3.

"He is a really great player," said the 20-year-old. "He has beaten great guys here in this tournament.

"Obviously I love playing against him. It's always tough battles. I have to play my best level. He pushes me to play 100 percent every time.

"The last time we faced each other, I lost so I have to be focused on that. I have to improve my level from that match."

Zverev, who beat British 19th seed Cameron Norrie to progress, lost to Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of last year's US Open, but he played down the parallels and said he had fuel in the tank, predicting a "very fun, entertaining match".

"I'm tired, for sure, because I played 7-6 in the fifth set again two times out of the last three matches, but I'm not dead," said the 26-year-old German.

"I'm not completely exhausted. I'm not in the same physical state I was in the US Open. I expect it to be very different, to be honest."

Zverev overcame a fierce challenge from Britain's Cameron Norrie to make the Australian Open quarterfinals after a gruelling five-set battle on Monday.

The German sixth seed won 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (10/3) in a match lasting more than four hours.

"At the end of the day it's a Grand Slam and everyone is playing at their best here," said Zverev. "Cam has definitely been playing amazing tennis and I'm just happy to get through."

Meanwhile, Daniil Medvedev stayed on track for a third Australian Open final in four years on Monday as Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska upset former champion Victoria Azarenka to surge into the quarterfinals.

Russian third seed Medvedev was made to work hard by Portugal's Nuno Borges before winning 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-1 after more than three hours on Rod Laver Arena.

The 27-year-old will meet Polish ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz for a place in the last four.

"Before this match I was feeling 100 percent," said Medvedev, defeated by Novak Djokovic in the 2021 final and by Rafael Nadal the following year.

"But he made me run third set and that's why I missed a little bit too much. I was pretty dead to be honest. In the fourth set I managed to raise my energy levels."

Big-serving Hurkacz ended the dream run of French wildcard Arthur Cazaux 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 to advance to his first quarter-final at Melbourne Park.

Earlier, Yastremska fought off two set points in the first set and came from a break down in the second against two-time champion Azarenka to win 7-6 (8/6),6-4.

Her reward is a clash with unseeded Czech Linda Noskova, who went through when Ukraine's Elina Svitolina retired with a bad back while trailing 3-0 in the first set.

"I need to take a little bit of time to breathe because my heart I feel is going to jump out of my body," said Yastremska, who hammered Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in the first round.

"I always felt like I was running behind the train, but I think because I am a little bit of a fighter that's why I won this match."

Noskova, 19, barely broke a sweat to progress after former world number three Svitolina was unable to complete her match on Margaret Court Arena.

The 19th seed needed a medical timeout at 2-0 down in the first set, during which she received treatment for her lower back, and she pulled out after being broken for the second time on her return.


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