Zverev 6-1, 5-3 Alcaraz* (* denotes next server)
Zverev starts with an ace and moves to 40-0, before holding to love. The German is outgunning Alcaraz at the baseline and on the service, reading his dropshots and despatching the Spaniard at the net with some excellent volleys.
Zverev has only given Alcaraz four second serves. An utterly ridiculous stat, over an hour into this contest. He’s a game away now from a 2-0 set lead.
Zverev* 6-1, 4-3 Alcaraz (* denotes next server)
For a man that is 6ft6in, Zverev is such a good mover. He’s very much a modern tennis player, away from the old servers like Ivo Karlovic, and can really get around the court. Zverev dives to the net to reach an Alcaraz drop shot to win the first point of the game, and rips a brilliant forehand down the line to go 15-30 up. Another poor drop shot from Alcaraz gives Zverev deuce, and the Spaniard is lucky to avoid break point as a Zverev backhand drifts just wide. After exchanging a few points, some masterful Zverev work at the net does earn a set point and the German converts! Wooooooow! Zverev has the break, and he’s now favourite to take a two-set lead! Alcaraz nearly slams his racket on the court in frustration, but just about keeps his composure.
Zverev 6-1, 3-3 Alcaraz* (* denotes next server)
Both men are grunting now with each shot. Some serious firepower coming down from both sides of the net, but it’s Alcaraz who prevails here, ripping a scorching forehand to the postage stamp. Zverev just looks to his corner for help. Not a lot to be done about that. Alcaraz creates two break points, his first on Zverev’s serve, but the German responds well to get back to deuce, battling his way through a baseline rally before Alcaraz bunts one into the net. Two brutal serves later and Zverev holds, but that was a real fight. Three-all in the second.
Zverev* 6-1, 2-3 Alcaraz (* denotes next server)
Rally of the match, 17 shots long, as Zverev defends brilliantly before turning the tables on Alcaraz, passing him at the ne … no! Alcaraz reaches out his racket and somehow stretches to volley a winner down the line. Alcaraz lets out his first roar and his customary fistbump to his corner. The rest of the game is an easier affair for Alcaraz, who holds to retake the lead, but it remains on serve in this second set.
Zverev 6-1, 2-2 Alcaraz* (* denotes next server)
Zverev has got so much better with his volleys. In the early part of his career, it was an area he was relatively weak on, considering how much of a weapon the serve-volley is for him. But now he uses that wingspan brilliantly at the net, and plays a lovely volley here, as Alcaraz scrambles around after the ball. Zverev holds to love. He looks untouchable at the moment on his serve.
Zverev* 6-1, 1-2 Alcaraz (* denotes next server)
This feels like the first game where Alcaraz has looked like himself. It’s only taken him 40 minutes to get into the match. A few good serves and a few errors from Zverev means Alcaraz moves 2-1 ahead in the second set. We’re still on serve.
Zverev 6-1, 1-1 Alcaraz* (* denotes next server)
Zverev again moves to 40-0 with ease. He’s making this look simple, as he reads a Alcaraz drop shot and despatches the following ball, before clinching the game with an acute forehand winner cross-court, which has Alcaraz nearly sprinting into the umpire.
Interesting that it is Alcaraz that is currently faltering in the longer rallies, an area where you would expect him to dominate. Zverev has had a gruelling road to this quarter-finals with two five-setters – over 14 hours of play, over five hours more than Alcaraz has faced – but he looks the fresher here!
Zverev* 6-1, 0-1 Alcaraz (* denotes next server)
Into the second set we go. Alcaraz to serve, and a couple of good first serves to the body gives the Spaniard a couple of much-needed cheap points. In the end, it’s an easy hold. Maybe Alcaraz has turned a corner?
An interesting stat: Zverev has won just two and lost 14 matches against the top 10 at majors, although one of those wins was against Alcaraz, at the 2022 French Open quarter-final.
Zverev actually has a winning record against the Spaniard, winning four and losing three of his seven matches against Alcaraz, who looks completely lost here at the Rod Laver Arena.
Alcaraz is moving further and further back behind the baseline in an attempt to retrieve these Zverev serves. But it doesn’t seem to work. Zverev zooms to 40-0 up and clinches the first set with an ace! An almost flawless set of tennis against the world No 2!
Zverev* 5-1 Alcaraz (* denotes next server)
At 40-30 up, Alcaraz sends a nice serve out wide, but Zverev’s wingspan means he covers it easily, and sends a wonderful crosscourt backhand past Alcaraz to earn deuce. Every service game is a battle for the youngster, who is once around brought back to deuce by a thunderous Zverev backhand. The German is hitting them from the forehand corner! Zverev moves to break point, and an unforced error from Alcaraz gifts Zverev yet another break of serve! Now, then. Two breaks up, Zverev will serve for the first set.
Zverev 4-1 Alcaraz* (* denotes next server)
Another easy service hold for Zverev. Alcaraz must be worried at how easy the German is making it look.
I would say it is a pleasure to hear Kyrgios on commentary. Real insight that is sorely lacking from most tennis commentators, although I think we can all agree it would be better to have Kyrgios out on court. That, sadly, doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. See below.
The Australian describes Zverev’s toss as being unusual, the German doesn’t hit the ball at the apex of the throw, like so many other great servers. Replays back that up. I hadn’t noticed Very interesting.
Zverev* 3-1 Alcaraz (* denotes next server)
The first signs of life for Alcaraz, who dominates his first point of the match. But Zverev roars back, passing Alcaraz at the net, before ripping a searing forehand up the line. Zverev looks in great nick but after a close five-minute game, Alcaraz prevails, and holds his serve. He’s up and running but it’s been a struggle so far for the Spaniard.
Zverev 3-0 Alcaraz* (* denotes next server)
Perfect serve out wide for Zverev, then a deadly backhand crosscourt to finish the point. Alcaraz hasn’t got anywhere near it so far. Zverev holds, after making 9/10 first serves in his first two service games. That backhand is just so clean. Nick Kyrgios is in the commentary box for Eurosport and he said it’s one of the best shots in tennis.
Zverev* 2-0 Alcaraz (* denotes next server)
Zverev breaks to love. An extremely and uncharacteristic start from Alcaraz, who bunts a few tame efforts into and over the net. Easy pickings for Zverev, who must already fancy himself for this first set. The German is just so hard to break!
Zverev 1-0 Alcaraz* (* denotes next server)
Zverev holds with the first service game. Standing at 6ft6in, the German’s serve is one of his biggest weapons and he typically sends it down at over 210mph. Zverev has made 75% of his first serves this tournament, which gives his opponents very little opportunity for break points and breaks of serve. Zverev finishes the game with a lovely touch at the net. He looks fired up.
Right, we’re back and both Zverev and Alcaraz are out on court! Let’s do this.
That was a goodun. Congrats to Zheng. Right, next up are the men.
Alexander Zverev v Carlos Alcaraz for a place in the men’s singles semi-finals. The winner will play Medvedev, who earlier came through in five sets against Hurkacz.
I’m off for a cuppa. See you in two ticks.
Zheng will rise to No 6 in the rankings if she takes the Australian Open title. She is fully capable of that.
Zheng met Li Na a few days ago in Melbourne, following her third-round win. Li Na is Zheng’s idol, and definitely an inspiration to the 21-year-old. Zheng has admitted to watching Li Na’s 2014 victory more than 10 times.
Ten years after Li Na won here in Australia, another Chinese star is rising. Zheng reaches her first grand slam semi-final, where she will face qualifier Dayana Yastremska.
Zheng speaks to the crowd:
She was hitting really good baseline shots. It was really tough for me. I was just thinking ‘stay focused’. I’m so happy to be in the semi-finals. I want to say thanks for all the fans that are supporting me.
She is told she will now be in the top 10 after reaching the last four.
Thank you for telling me. Nobody tells me anything!
Zheng is automatic now, swatting a forehand winner away with ease. Her level has risen, and Kalinskaya’s has dropped, as she bumps an unforced error into the net for 15-30. Zheng punishes a weak second serve to earn match point … and another error from Kalinskaya gives Zheng the victory!
Kalinskaya* 7-6 (4), 3-6, 1-5 Zheng (* denotes next server)
Two consecutive aces for Zheng takes her to 40-15 but Kalinskaya gets back to deuce. But Zheng is fired up, screaming as she holds serve. It seems the Russian has overcome her hip injury, but I’m not sure about the scoreline. When Zheng is good, she’s very, very good. A serious contender for the title here, if she plays as he has in this third set. Zheng is one game away from victory.
Kalinskaya has called the trainer on. It seems she is struggling with some sort of hip injury, or possibly something in her back? Kalinskaya lies down on the court by her bench, as the physio stretches out the Russian’s right leg. It does seems to be a hip issue. For the first time, Kalinskaya’s expression changes from a serene one. She’s in obvious pain.
Kalinskaya 7-6 (4), 3-6, 1-4 Zheng* (* denotes next server)
Zheng has more energy, and at 30-30 wins a point she has no right to after some great defensive work. Break point for Zheng. This might as well be match point … and the Chinese breaks serve again, with Kalinskaya skying a forehand beyond the baseline. That’s four games in a row for Zheng – surely Kalinskaya can’t recover from 4-1 down here?
Kalinskaya* 7-6 (4), 3-6, 1-3 Zheng (* denotes next server)
Zheng holds with ease to move 3-1 up in the deciding set. Just saw a stat that Zheng wins 82% of sets after an early break. Not sure exactly what ‘an early break’ is defined by, but that doesn’t sounds promising for Kalinskaya.
Kalinskaya 7-6 (4), 3-6, 1-2 Zheng* (* denotes next server)
Oh no! Are the wheels finally coming off for Kalinskaya? Zheng breaks serve to love, hurtling one of those textbook backhand winners down the line past the now helpless Russian. Suddenly, this match looks like Zheng’s to lose, she will now serve to consolidate her break of serve.
Kalinskaya* 7-6 (4), 3-6, 1-1 Zheng (* denotes next server)
Zheng holds to love. She’s not messing about here. Feels like she’s finally hit her stride as we approach the third hour of this match.
This tennis meme made me chuckle, by the way.
Sort of how I feel when this happens.
Kalinskaya 7-6 (4), 3-6, 1-0 Zheng* (* denotes next server)
Just as she did in the first set, Kalinskaya starts the first service game of the third set with a double fault. But the Russian recovers to 40-30. This is such a crucial part of this match. Zheng has the momentum, and is hoping to put the pressure on her less favoured opponent. The 12th seed rips a backhand winner for deuce, but again Kalinskaya responds to hold serve. Mentally, this is so impressive from the Russian.
Despite a double fault and couple of nervy shots, Zheng holds serve and wins the second set, sealing it with an ace down the T. Zheng doesn’t even look up at her camp, or flick a smile. She’s focused. Ominous signs for Kalinskaya prior to the third set.
Kalinskaya 7-6 (4), 3-5 Zheng* (* denotes next server)
Zheng earns break point – the first of this second set – and converts! Zheng didn’t try and hit the hero winner, just stayed in the rally and ramped up the pace and eventually Kalinskaya crumbled. That is something the Chinese does so well. She can really smash a groundstroke when she needs to. Sometimes you don’t need to hit the chalk. Zheng leads 5-3 and she will serve for the second set.
Kalinskaya* 7-6 (4), 3-4 Zheng (* denotes next server)
Zheng holds serve. She’s so consistent on her serve and really erratic on Kalinskaya’s serve.
Kalinskaya 7-6 (4), 3-3 Zheng* (* denotes next server)
Something a little lacking is a proper atmosphere. I’m loathe to call the Australian atmosphere flat, but it’s not exactly the vibes of Kim Jong Un at a volleyball game.
Anyway, a love service game from Kalinskaya! That’s 12 successive holds of serve, after four breaks of serve in the opening six games of this match. We’re back to 3-3 in the second set.
Kalinskaya* 7-6 (4), 2-3 Zheng (* denotes next server)
After racing to 40-0 up, Zheng allows Kalinskaya back into it for deuce. That’s 26 unforced errors to Kalinskaya’s 16 in this match. But two good serves see Zheng eventually take the game, the latter a good second serve to the body that ties Kalinskaya in knots.
Kalinskaya 7-6 (4), 2-2 Zheng* (* denotes next server)
As well as Kalinskaya has played, this is a story about Zheng. She has more talent, and the capabilities to win here, but is playing well within herself. When Zheng strings a few shots together, Kalinskaya can’t live with her. But there are too many errors from Zheng. After forcing deuce on her opponents serve with another winner up the line, Zheng duds another shot into the net to gift Kalinskaya the game. We’re back to 2-2 in the second set.
Insects on the court! A few bugs on the blue, as it were, and a young ballboy expertly grabs some sort of winged creature with his hands and tosses it to the side. I guess when you grown up in Australia, you’re not squeamish about these things.
Kalinskaya* 7-6 (4), 1-2 Zheng (* denotes next server)
Kalinskaya’s demeanour is so calm, you’d never guess this was her first grand slam quarter-final – remember she has never previously been past the second round of a slam. The Russian claws herself back to 30-30, but Zheng serves well to close out the game. It remains on serve.
Kalinskaya 7-6 (4), 1-1 Zheng* (* denotes next server)
Zheng forces deuce, and has Kalinskaya scrambling about behind her baseline with relentless hitting, but the Russian reads Zheng’s volley and passes the Chinese at the net with a backhand winner up the line. Kalinskaya takes the game, and we’re all square in the second set.
Kalinskaya* 7-6 (4), 0-1 Zheng (* denotes next server)
Zheng responds, and wins the first service game of the second set.
A lot of pressure on Zheng’s shoulders now. She was rated by Forbes as the 15th highest earning athlete in the world across all sports, and those off-court sponsors, who see her as a way to access the huge Chinese market, are banking on her to reach the latter stages of the grand slams, particularly against the unseeded players.
What a shock result this would be! Kalinskaya is half-way to the semi-finals of the Australian Open!
Both players are tense, as Kalinskaya takes a 5-4 lead. One of the longest rallies of the match follows, with both players sprinting around their baselines at full tilt, but it’s Zheng that cracks first, palming a weak forehand just into the tramline! At 6-4, Kalinskaya will have two set points!
No, they’re not, it turns out! Kalinskaya hits an in-out forehand winner to get the mini-break back. It’s 3-3 in the first-set tie-break. Who will crack?
Zheng taking her time, the shot clock nearly expiring as she zooms her fourth ace of the set down the middle to take a 2-1 lead in the tie-break. Kalinskaya is tightening up a bit, and sends an easy forehand long for Zheng’s minibreak. It’s 3-1 to the Chinese. Are Kalinskaya’s nerves jangling?
Zheng is oscillating from the sublime to the ridiculous. She sends a backhand winner up the line at 135km/hr, before double faulting, her first of the match. The next serve, she aces down the T, at 179km/hr! Zheng holds, and we’ll go to a first-set tiebreak!
Shot of the match! Kalinskaya sends a few looping shots from the baseline and after a bit of rallying, Zheng pummels a backhand right into the corner. But Kalinskaya recovers her service game well, and holds to take a 6-5 lead. Zheng can’t get any consistency going, she will again serve to stay in this set.
At 30-30, Zheng tries another drop shot, but she judges this one to perfection! That took cojones, after her awful effort in the last game, and Kalinskaya shakes her head in bemusement. What a crucial point that was. Instead of facing set point, Zheng has game point, which she wins with aplomb, ripping a forehand up the line. It’s 5-5.
Zheng skews a drop shot and Kalinskaya capitalises, sealing the game with a strong backhand, forcing an error from her opponent. Kalinskaya leads 5-4, and is one game away from the first set! What an upset this would be! Zheng will serve to stay in the set.
An empathic response from Zheng, who holds to love. Nobody women had more aces (34) this tournament coming into this match. Zheng’s serve is so, so important to her game. It’s 4-4. This set could go either way.
At 30-40 down, Kalinskaya comes to the net and sends an excellent volley beyond Zheng’s racket. The Russian is moving really well, and her backhand is causing Zheng all sorts of problems. Kalinskaya secures just the third hold of serve in this first set, and she leads 4-3.
A woeful game for Zheng, who is having a bit of a wobble. Zheng’s serve is a real weapon normally, but Kalinskaya is dominating with her returns, particularly on the second serve. We’re back on serve at 3-3.
Zheng breaks! When the 12th seed gets it going, Kalinskaya can’t live with her. Zheng is hitting the lines, and Kalinskaya can only return the ball to the middle of the court. An easy overhead sees Zheng take a 3-2 lead. She will now serve to consolidate her break.
Zheng holds, starting the game with a rip-roaring cross-court backhand winner, and finishing it with an ace out wide. Things are hotting up a bit, both players have settled. It’s 2-2, with Kalinskaya to serve next.
Zheng looks visibly annoyed at herself as Kalinskaya holds her serve. There was an opportunity after the nervy first game to dominate this first set, but the Chinese has allowed her opponent to get a foothold here, Kalinskaya’s confidence is soaring, but it remains on serve.
Zheng is the aggressor on her serve, but Kalinskaya has settled. After going 0-30 down, the Russian roars back with some gutsy baseline retrievals and forces Zheng into a series of errors! Kalinskaya breaks straight back and we’re back on serve in the first set: 1-1.