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Carlos Alcaraz crashes out of Aussie Open with loss to Zverev

Alexander Zverev made no mistake with his second chance to close out a victory over No. 2-ranked Carlos Alcaraz on Wednesday night and moved into an Australian Open semifinal versus two-time finalist Daniil Medvedev.

The sixth-seeded Zverev was up a break in the third set and missed a chance to serve out the win, but he didn’t blink the second time, finishing off a 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4 triumph.

Wimbledon champion Alcaraz was the only player to beat 10-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam match last year. He won’t get the chance in Australia this time.

It was Zverev’s first victory over a top-five player at a Grand Slam, and the reward was a spot in the semifinals for the seventh time at a major. He will face Medvedev, who won a grueling four-hour match over Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

Speaking in a news conference at 3 a.m. local time, Zverev considered Wednesday’s result his most important since returning from an ankle injury layoff that ruled him out of Wimbledon and the US 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.

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.”

Zverev got off to a flying start versus Alcaraz at Rod Laver Arena, dropping just two points on serve as he raced through the opening set in 29 minutes. He kept Alcaraz at arm’s length and broke serve twice in the second set.

The German was serving for the match at 5-3 in the third, just after midnight, 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 final seven points of the tiebreaker to make it 2-1, flashing a smile after earning four set points when he chased a ball wide and hit a forehand passing shot.

After an exchange of service breaks to open the fourth, Zverev got another opportunity to close out the match after breaking in the ninth game. Upon clinching the win, the Olympic gold medalist let out of a scream of relief and shook his arms in celebration at about 1:20 a.m. local time.

“When you’re up 6-1, 6-3, 5-2 against a player like Carlos, you start thinking because we are all human,” Zverev said on court. “Your brain starts going and it’s not always helpful, but I’m happy I got there in the end. I fought back pretty well in the fourth set and didn’t let go.”

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