Alcaraz ‘ready for a great battle against Medvedev’ after brushing aside Zverev | US Open Tennis 2023

new balance

On a night when Carlos Alcaraz was below his imperious best, the all-conquering Spanish star was good enough in the most important moments to brush aside Alexander Zverev in straight sets and inch closer to a rare US Open repeat.

Alcaraz hit more unforced errors than winners behind a first-serve percentage that hovered around 50% for most of Wednesday night’s eagerly awaited quarter-final with the former world No 2. But the 20-year-old converted four of four break points while saving all five that he faced to polish off the 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory in a coolly efficient two-and-a-half hours. His reward? A Friday night showdown with third-seeded Daniil Medvedev in a delicious semi-final matchup of the past two US Open champions.

“I’m feeling really comfortable playing on this court, playing in New York,” said Alcaraz, who is bidding to become the first back-to-back men’s champion at Flushing Meadows since Roger Federer won five straight from 2004 to 2008. “I’m feeling great physically. I’m feeling strong enough mentally. I think I’m ready to play a great battle against Medvedev in the semi-final.”

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The 12th-seeded Zverev, a 26-year-old from Germany who came within two points of the championship in New York three years ago, had needed more than four-and-a-half hours to dispense of sixth-seeded Jannik Sinner in a gruelling fourth-round match that ended at 1.40am on Tuesday morning.

Having stayed off the grounds to devote a full day to recovery, Zverev impressively went blow for blow with Alcaraz from the first ball, earning the first break points of the first set.

But Zverev missed backhands on both of them, then watched Alcaraz break immediately after for 5-3. From there, Alcaraz promptly held at love to take the opener after 48 minutes.

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The top-seeded Spaniard took the upper hand early in the second, converting his next look at a break point with a sharply angled backhand winner that settled an explosive four-shot exchange. He broke again near the end of the set for good measure, ripping a forehand winner to cap a 10-stroke rally that brought the near-capacity crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium to their feet.

It was during that second set when Zverev said he suffered an injury that limited his movement and compromised his serve.

Alexander Zverev said an injury to hamstring glute adversely affected his ability to serve against Carlos Alcaraz.
Alexander Zverev said an injury to hamstring glute adversely affected his ability to serve against Carlos Alcaraz. Photograph: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

“The second set I felt something in my hamstring glute, left side,” Zverev said. “I couldn’t push off on my serve anymore. My serve speed was down quite a lot compared to the other days. Against him especially I needed a good serving day otherwise it would have been difficult.”

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He added: “It bothered me running a little bit, but the biggest problem is pushing off on my serve. If the serve speed goes down, percentage goes down, it’s very difficult to compete with Carlos.”

Zverev took a medical timeout during the set break and showed admirable fight once play resumed, trading holds with Alcaraz deep into the third. But the tank was empty after Monday night’s pyrrhic triumph and once Alcaraz snatched a break late in the set with another dazzling forehand, the match was a handshake away.

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It’s been some year for Alcaraz – the youngest ever No 1 seed in a US Open men’s draw – since capturing his first major title last year in New York and becoming the youngest ever player to climb to No 1 in the world rankings, a mantle he will surrender to Novak Djokovic after this week. He’s won a tour-best 57 of 63 matches this season and piled up six more titles, including a second career major championship at Wimbledon. His match record at grand slams going back to the start of last year’s US Open? Twenty-four wins against just one defeat.

“I grew up a lot since last year,” Alcaraz said. “Last year I was facing my first semi-final of a grand slam. Now I’m facing my fourth one. I feel like I’m a totally different player. Doesn’t matter that last year I got my first grand slam, I won my first semi-final, final of grand slam. I feel like I’m more mature. I deal better with the pressure with that kind of moments. I feel like I’m different, different person and different player.”

Earlier in Wednesday’s night session, Madison Keys strolled past Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-4 to reach the US Open semi-finals for the first time since 2018.

The 28-year-old from Illinois, seeded 17th in the women’s draw, saved all nine break points she faced to keep alive the prospect of an all-American final on Saturday against Coco Gauff – the sixth-seed is due to face Karolina Muchova in the last four on Thursday night.

Madison Keys has flown under the radar but the 2017 US Open finalist remains a threat to Aryna Sabalenka.
Madison Keys has flown under the radar but the 2017 US Open finalist remains a threat to Aryna Sabalenka. Photograph: Larry Marano/UPI/Shutterstock

Keys saved a break point with a crisp backhand during an opening game that was suspended for nearly 10 minutes when a spectator required medical attention. The USTA said in a statement that it was determined that the fan had a prior medical condition and the incident was not related to the sweltering conditions that have become one of the tournament’s most prominent storylines.

Vondrousova, who earned her first major title at Wimbledon in July, was broken in her first two service games and went quietly in the opener, clearly bothered by the arm ailment that led her to withdraw from the doubles following her three-set win over Peyton Stearns in the round of 16.

The No 9 seed raised her level in the second set but was unable to convert on five more break chances before suffering the decisive break in the ninth game.

Keys, whose run to the 2017 US Open final remains her career-best performance at a major, has largely flown under the radar over the past week and a half thanks to the outsized media attention on Gauff. No longer. But the American will no doubt rely on that robust home support on Thursday when she faces second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion who is due to inherit the world No 1 ranking next week.

“I just love it here,” Keys said. “I love playing here. In front of a home crowd you can never feel like you can’t get out of any situation.”

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