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Alcaraz sizzles to set up Zverev quarterfinal

  • Dan Imhoff

A dedicated tennis fan at heart, Carlos Alcaraz unashamedly admits to switching on the television to catch his greatest tour rivals weaving their magic whenever possible during the Australian Open.

MORE: All the scores from Day 9 at AO 2024

Alcaraz held top billing at Rod Laver Arena on Monday night, and delivered a shot-making masterclass of his own in a 6-4 6-4 6-0 dismissal of Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic to set a quarterfinal showdown against sixth seed Alexander Zverev.

Where other champions tend to downplay how much or which of their opponents they felt compelled to watch, the Spaniard had no hesitation in name-dropping his favourite stars.

MORE: AO 2024 men's singles draw

“I love to watch every match if I can, but I love watching Daniil [Medvedev] play, for example,” Alcaraz said.

“Novak [Djokovic], [Jannik] Sinner as well. Those guys I like to watch because every time that they step on the court they put [their] best level and as a huge fan of tennis I like to watch pretty good tennis, high level, so those players are the best players in the world.”

Alcaraz's all-court game lifted a level as the match progressed

Beware the smiling assassin when the 20-year-old – genuine as his appreciation for a scrambling drop shot or screaming forehand down the line may be – vouches for the television entertainment value of his key threats.

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It was no coincidence they were his three highest-ranked opponents, and arguably his greatest roadblocks to a first Australian Open crown this fortnight.

Every incremental percentage helps at this stage, and with Medvedev, Djokovic and Sinner having all hit their straps at Melbourne Park heading into the second week, a spot of scouting did no harm.

Clinical as he was dazzling in his fourth-round outing under lights, Alcaraz's performance would not have gone unnoticed to his fellow top-four seeds, either.

Alcaraz picked off 43 winners to his opponent’s 14 – 20 of those off that vicious forehand wing – and committed just 19 unforced errors to Kecmanovic’s 17.

The pair had contested one of the matches of 2022 when a then-18-year-old Alcaraz narrowly prevailed in the quarterfinals in Miami en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy.

Nine titles on top of that run, including the 2022 US Open and last year’s Wimbledon crowns, made the now world No.2 a vastly superior challenge.

Kecmanovic had shown glimpses of the form that carried him to the fourth round at Melbourne Park two years ago in three prior rounds, but had expended an enormous amount of energy, having saved two match points in both previous matches against 24th seed Jan-Lennard Struff and last year’s semifinalist Tommy Paul.

Where he went close in Miami two years ago, he was never given a sniff of hope of pulling off the boilover second time round.

“I think everything went perfectly,” Alcaraz said. “Miami 2022 was a really close match, high level from both parts. I think today was a pretty good match as well, but I pushed him to the limit in every ball, in every point.

“Obviously he has played a lot of matches, a lot of tough matches before this one so probably physically he wasn't at his 100 per cent. Every ball I push him to the limit, moving him side to side. I could take my chances in every set.”

Earlier, Zverev booked his third Australian Open quarterfinal in five years after eking out a 7-5 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6[3] win over Cameron Norrie in four hours and 50 minutes.

Despite having spent more than five hours extra on court to progress as far as his quarterfinal opponent, the German was comfortable he had enough fuel left in the tank to face Alcaraz, who he holds a 4-3 head-to-head record against.

“One hundred per cent. I also think that coming out on the Rod Laver Arena at 7pm for a quarterfinal match against the No.2 player in the world, that gives you energy, as well,” Zverev said.

“I hope it's going to be a very fun, entertaining match.”