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Alcaraz departs: "It was a pity I couldn't stay at this level"

  • Lee Goodall

Carlos Alcaraz left Melbourne Park after his four-set quarterfinal defeat to Alexander Zverev knowing deep down that his tennis wasn’t good enough in the key moments on Wednesday night.

Despite a third set revival, the Spanish world No.2 fell 6-1 6-3 6-7(2) 6-4 to the German sixth seed under the Rod Laver Arena lights.

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Alcaraz looked like he was on his way to suffering a comfortable straight-sets loss when Zverev led by two sets to love and 5-2 in the third, only for the Spaniard to briefly look like he then might make one of the Grand Slam comebacks of all time by forcing a fourth.

Zverev produced a better level when it mattered most from 3-4 in that fourth set, though, and made sure he served out the match second time around to move into his seventh Grand Slam semifinal after just over three hours on court.

Alcaraz admitted afterwards that he was disappointed with the slow start he made against the world No.6 and was frustrated with his inability to sustain the level of tennis that had won him the third-set tiebreak.

“Let's say I'm glad to end in the third set playing great tennis,” explained the 20-year-old who committed 45 unforced errors on the night. “Then the beginning of the fourth set, I couldn't stay at this level. It was a pity.

“I think I had chances, you know… 4-3 in the fourth set. I didn't take it. You know, a lot of up-and-downs with my level, with my tennis, with the serves.

“That's it. I have to improve. I have to still [keep] working on it, and let's see in the future.”

Despite his disappointment, the two-time major champion said he must try to see a quarterfinal finish as a positive experience, given he missed the trip to Australia at the start of 2023 due to injury .

“It has been a good tournament for me, making quarterfinals, playing good tennis,” he reflected.

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“In general, you know, I leave the tournament happy. Forgetting about today's level. In general I think I did a pretty good tournament.

“I played great matches. And obviously quarterfinal of a Grand Slam is good. Is not what I'm looking for, but is not bad, you know. Quarterfinal is a good run.”

Carlos waves as he exits Rod Laver Arena after bowing out in the quarterfinal of Australian Open 2024. [Getty Images]

Alcaraz’s bid for a first AO semifinal then will be put on hold for another 12 months; it is the only semifinal missing from his Grand Slam set. 

He ended his stay by promising he will be watching the rest of the tournament, with interest, from afar.

So can anyone stop Novak Djokovic from winning his 11th title in Melbourne?

“I think the players that are in the semifinals have the level to beat [Novak]. Let's see,” Alcaraz said. “It's not easy to beat Novak in a tournament, but I think it's even tougher in a Grand Slam. 

"But he has to face Jannik Sinner, [and] he's playing an unbelievable game. He has not dropped a set in this tournament. That means that he has the level and the capacity to beat Novak.

“I'm gonna watch the matches, of course.”