Australian Open: A Sigh Of Relief, A Statement Win Lift Medvedev And Zverev Into Semifinals

Daniil Medvedev (photo: Tennis Australia/Josh Chadwick)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 24, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

In a minute shy of four hours, Daniil Medvedev won his second five-setter of the Australian Open fortnight, and with his 7-6 (4) 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over No. 9 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, the World No. 3 and third seed from Russia advanced to the Melbourne semifinals for the third time in four years.

With his 75th career win in Grand Slam competition, Medvedev has now reached the semifinals at three straight major events following his semifinal run at Wimbledon last summer coupled with a final appearance at the US Open in September.

“I’m so destroyed right now,” Medvedev quipped in his on-court, post-match interview with Hall of Famer John McEnroe. “Not that I ran out of gas, but I was feeling very tough physically in the end of the second set already.

“Fourth set I just [had] no more concentration and I’m like, ‘OK, I have to try my best to do whatever I can and let’s see. If I lose, I lose, I go home and it’s OK.’ I’m happy that like this I managed to win.”

Medvedev swatted 11 aces and accumulated 43 winners to 42 unforced errors. By comparison, Hurkacz hit 61 winners, including 16 aces, but also committed 55 unforced errors. There were a combined 24 break points, including 19 in the first three sets. Medvedev won four of his nine break points, while Hurkacz won five of 15. By the end, Hurkacz was ahead on total points, 164-156, but still came out on the losing side of the quarterfinal match. Of consolation, Hurkacz will rise to No. 8 I  next week’s ATP Rankings.

Next, Medvedev will face No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev in Friday’s semifinal round after the German surprised World No. 2 and second seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4, in three hours and five minutes.

It was a statement victory for Zverev, his first against a Top 5 opponent, and it lifted him to his second AO semifinal.

Zverev dominated with his serve, particularly in the first two sets when he jumped out to a two sets-to-nine lead. He won 73 percent of his first-serve points, put up 28 winners to 25 unforced errors and broke Alcaraz seven times in 10 opportunities. Although Alcaraz countered with 39 winners, he also committed 45 unforced errors. Zverev outpointed his opponent 125-103.

“Look, I’m playing one of the best players in the world, especially over the last two years he’s been No. 1 or No. 2 constantly,” Zverev told Hall of Famer Jim Courier in his on-court interview. “He’s won two Grand Slams.

“When you’re 6-1, 6-3, 5-2, you start thinking. I mean, we’re all human and it’s a great honor to play against guys like him. Then when you’re so close to winning, obviously your brain starts going and it’s not always helpful. But I’m happy I got to the end. I fought back quite well in the fourth set, didn’t let go and I’m very happy that I finished the match.”

Wednesday night’s triumph was Zverev’s second consecutive victory over the 20-year-old Alcaraz, whom he also beat last November at the Nitto ATP Finals. He now leads the Spaniard 5-3 in their head-to-head.

Meanwhile, Medvedev leads Zverev 11-7 lifetime, including 5-3 on hard courts. The other semifinal on Friday will pair defending champion and 10-time AO titlist Novak Djokovic of Serbia against No. 4 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy.

On Tuesday, Djokovic was pushed to four sets in his quarterfinal win over No. 12 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, while Sinner rolled to his fourth straight-set win of the tournament with his 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

Comeback Queen: Zheng advances to first major semifinal

No. 12 seed Zheng Qinwen of China rallied from a set down in her the Australian Open quarterfinal match with Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya to win 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1 in two hours and 20 minutes Wednesday evening. The victory over the 75th-ranked Russian advanced Zheng to her first Grand Slam semifinal against 93rd-ranked Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska, who earlier defeated No. 50 Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-4.

“Of course, I’m super happy to won this match and to give a break to myself, because, you know, I lost the first set and it was really, really difficult,” said Zheng, who will crack the WTA Top 10 next week. “I mean, the opponent, she’s playing really good. That was really tough match. So emotional.

“It’s just, I think, more than just a tennis on court.”

Zheng, who hit 10 aces and 42 winners, won 10 of the last 11 games of the match to become only the third Chinese major semifinalist in tennis history. She follows in the footsteps of two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na, the 2014 Australian Open champion, and two-time major semifinalist Zheng Jie.

“Of course, I’m proud of myself. Yeah, but, you know, this is just the beginning,” Zheng said in her news conference. “I still need to play tomorrow. So I need to change fast the mentality and trying to stay my game plan for tomorrow.”

Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, seeded second, will face No. 4 seed Coco Gauff of the United States in the other semifinal match.

Lleyton Hewitt inducted into Australian Tennis Hall of Fame

Lleyton Hewitt was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in a special ceremony on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday evening.

Hewitt was the youngest player to hold the world No. 1 singles ranking, rising to the top spot at age 20 in 2001. He spent 80 weeks in total at world No. 1, the 10th longest reign in ATP Tour history.

Hewitt won 30 career singles titles, including Grand Slam triumphs at the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon 2002. He also won back-to-back titles at the ATP Tour Finals in 2001 and 2002. His best Australian Open result was a runner-up finish in 2005, which made him the first Australian to reach a singles final at the tournament in 17 years.

A three-time Olympian, Hewitt is the most decorated Australian Davis Cup representative in history. He played a key role in the nation’s 1999 and 2003 Davis Cup title-winning runs, and has served as captain of the Australian Davis Cup team since 2016. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2023.

Hewitt’s bronze statue with join 46 other greats of Australian tennis in Garden Square at Melbourne Park.

Around Melbourne Park

Rohan Bopanna of India and Australia’s Matthew Ebden defeated sixth-seeded Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni, both of Argentina, 6-4, 7-6 (5) to reach their third straight Grand Slam semifinal as a team. The 43-year-old Bopanna is seeking his first major title, while Ebden is bidding for his second after winning Wimbledon in 2022 with Max Purcell.

By reaching the semifinals, it means Bopanna will debut at Doubles No. 1 in the new ATP Rankings next Monday, the oldest No. 1 in history.

“I think for every player out there, it is a dream,” Bopanna said of his achievement, during a post-match news conference. “It was my dream, and more so when you’re playing the sport for couple of decades. Then now at this juncture for me to get to World No. 1, I think my perseverance to the sport, to stay in it and to keep fighting and to keep working hard, and have such a great partner by my side — I think the consistent year we had last year is why. … This helped me get to this stage.”

Wednesday’s Australian Open results

Thursday’s Australian Open order of play

By the numbers

Day 11 at the Australian Open 2024 on Wednesday saw a total of 49,748 come out to Melbourne Park. The night session attendance of 25,191 set a second Wednesday Night session record with 25,191 fans coming out to Melbourne Park, breaking the old mark of 25,057 established in 2018. The day session drew 24,557.

The Australian Open 2024 cumulative attendance for Days 1-11 is 849,101. This is an Australian Open two-week attendance record, breaking the 2023 mark of 839,192.

“Quotable …”

“I will say I didn’t have, like, a huge tactic for today. The most important thing was for me is to keep the energy up, because I had, like, a lot of matches here already and played a lot of sets.

“You know, you feel the tiredness, and it’s normal. The main goal was just to keep the energy up and stay positive, even if I was doing sometimes stupid mistakes.

“I try not to get angry on myself, because I understood why it’s happening. Yeah, just, I don’t know, there wasn’t a huge plan.”

Dayana Yastremska, during her post-match news conference after defeating Linda Noskova, 6-3, 6-4, to reach her first major semifinal, discussing how she managed her emotions and her game.