Zverev Ousts Alcaraz To Move Into Australian Open Semis Against Medvedev; Zheng Into 1St Semifinal

Alexander Zverev of Germany celebrates after defeating Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, early Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)
Alexander Zverev of Germany celebrates after defeating Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, early Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Alexander Zverev made no mistake with his second chance to close out a win over No. 2-ranked Carlos Alcaraz on Wednesday night and moved into an Australian Open semifinal against two-time finalist Daniil Medvedev.

The sixth-seeded Zverev missed a chance to serve it out from 5-3 in the third set but he didn't blink when he got another chance in the fourth after Alcaraz rallied, finishing off a 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4 victory.

Alcaraz won Wimbledon last year and was the only player to beat 10-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam match in 2023. The 20-year-old Spaniard won’t get the chance in Australia this time.

Zverev’s reward was a spot in a major semifinal for the seventh time.

“Look, I’m playing one of the best players in the world, especially over the last two years," Zverev said. "Then when you start winning, obviously your brain starts going. It’s not always helpful but I’m happy I got it at the end."

No. 12-seeded Zheng Qinwen and Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska won women’s quarterfinals on Day 11 and will each play their first Grand Slam semi when they meet after a night sleep.

Zverev, speaking in a news conference at 3 a.m. local time, considered Wednesday's result his most important since returning from an ankle injury layoff that ruled him out of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2022.

“I was on top of my game before the injury happened,” he said. “I’m extremely happy to be back where I am and winning these kind of matches, giving myself the chance again. Because last year ... I wasn’t a Slam contender.” Alcaraz missed the 2023 Australian Open with injury and was into the quarterfinals here for the first time, completing a Grand Slam set.

He had dropped only one set and spent five fewer hours on court than Zverev in the four previous rounds.

“I’m sad with my level today, because I have been playing good tennis,” Alcaraz said. "Obviously quarterfinal of a Grand Slam is a good run. It's not what I’m looking for, but is not bad.”

Medvedev, a two-time finalist in Australia, outlasted ninth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to make it to the semifinals here for the third time in four years. Djokovic will play Jannik Sinner in the other semifinal.

The sixth-seeded Zverev was on top of Alcaraz early, winning all but two points on serve as he raced through the first set in 29 minutes. Two service breaks in the second gave him a surprisingly comfortable lead.

Just after midnight, Zverev was serving for a straight sets win when Alcaraz broke for the first time. Alcaraz got back to 5-5 when he chased a shot into the doubles alley and knocked a backhand down the line, beaming a big smile and shaking his racket in a gesture that suggested: “Hello, still here.”

He won the last seven points of the tiebreaker to make it 2-1.

But after an exchange of service breaks to open the fourth and some energy-sapping rallies that had both players sprinting side-to-side to make incredible shots, Zverev got another chance to close out after breaking in the ninth game.

He clinched it about 1:20 a.m. local time, letting out a scream of relief and shaking both arms in celebration.

Medvedev's celebration was more like a sigh of relief. He led 4-2 in the fourth set but Hurkacz rallied to force a fifth and took it to a grueling four hours.

"I’m so destroyed right now,” No. 3-ranked Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open winner, said. His tough run in Melbourne included a nearly 4 1/2-hour, five-set second-round win that finished at 3:39 a.m.

The women’s semifinal lineup was completed when Zheng won 10 of the last 11 games to fend off Anna Kalinskaya 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1 and Yastremska beat beat Linda Noskova 6-3, 6-4. Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka and U.S. Open winner Coco Gauff will meet in the other semifinal.

Zheng, a U.S. Open quarterfinalist last year, regained control midway through the second set after Kalinskaya won six of the last seven points to take the first in a tiebreaker.

“Really excited. First time for me,” Zheng said. “Of course I’m proud of myself. But this is just the beginning — I still need to play tomorrow."

No. 93-ranked Yastremska won three matches in the qualifying tournament and became only the second qualifier to reach the women’s singles semis in Australia in the Open era.

“It’s nice to make history because at that time I was not born,” she said. “I’m super happy (but) very tired.”

Noskova beat top-ranked Iga Swiatek on her way to her first Slam quarterfinal but struggled against Yastremska.

After the match, Yastremska wrote a message on a TV camera lens and later explained it was “about the Ukrainian fighters, that I’m very proud of them. They really deserve a huge respect.”

She said she’s inspired by representing her country, which has been at war for nearly two years since the Russian invasion.

“It’s my mission here,” she said. “If I do well, I can get -- tough to express. I’m just trying to give the signal to Ukraine that I’m really proud of it.”

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis