- Alexander Zverev beat the Wimbledon champion after more than three hours
- The Spanish star fought back in the third set but faltered at the last in the fourth
- Zverev will need to beat Daniil Medvedev to reach Sunday’s showpiece final
Two weeks to the day since Netflix‘s Break Point documentary released an episode dedicated to their heated rivalry, Alexander Zverev pulled off the win of his life to set up a showdown with his nemesis Daniil Medvedev.
Episode four of season two of Break Point was controversial. Zverev was the hero – bravely battling back from a horrendous injury – and Medvedev was the villain, using mental warfare and poor sportsmanship to destabilise his opponent.
Many tennis fans were uncomfortable with Netflix’s decision to cast Zverev in the role of the good guy, while making no mention of the fact he was given a penalty notice in Germany and fined €450,000 for allegations of physically abusing a woman, a charge which he denies and is contesting.
The episode focusses on Zverev’s tempestuous defeat to Medvedev in Monte Carlo last year, with the German losing focus as his opponent sows chaos: arguing with the crowd, taking a toilet break in the middle of a set and playfully removing one of the net poles.
Alexander Zverev beat Carlos Alcaraz to book his place in the last-four of the Australian Open
Alcaraz battled back from 3-1 down in the third set but ultimately came unstuck in the fourth
Zverev called Medvedev ‘one of the most unfair players in the world’ after the match, and on Break Point one of his coaching team says: ‘I’ve lost all respect for the guy.’
‘Sascha is living in his own world,’ responded Medvedev at the time.
The 27-year-old Russian leads the head-to-head 11-7, but if Zverev produces the kind of tennis he brought against Alcaraz that will become 11-8 on Friday.
Zverev played with controlled, consistent aggression against the Spaniard and landed a scarcely-believable 85 per cent of his first serves. Almost as impressive as the way he took a commanding lead at two sets and 5-2 up was the manner in which he responded when Alcaraz came alive to force a fourth set.
‘I was rushing him quite a lot,’ said Zverev. ‘I was playing extremely aggressive, kind of taking the racquet out of his hands. You have to do that against him. If you let him control the points, control the pace of the game, he’s unbeatable. He’s the best player in the world when it comes to that.
‘I really had to take it into my own hands and I felt like I did that well.’
It was the 26-year-old’s first ever win against a top-five player in a Grand Slam and he will have to beat two more – first Medvedev and then either Novak Djokovic or Jannik Sinner – to win the title.
As for Alcaraz, if Zverev was mindbogglingly good he was head-scratchingly poor and his relative slump since winning the Wimbledon title continues. A runner-up finish in Cincinnati has been his best finish since that extraordinary day on Centre Court.
Zverev secured just his first ever win over a top-five player at a Grand Slam on Wednesday
The German will need to beat nemesis Daniil Medvedev to reach Sunday’s showpiece final
Normally a model of composure, he was frenetic against Zverev, overhitting and overelaborating. The 20-year-old’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero is recovering from knee surgery and has not travelled to Australia. Who knows how significant the loss of that calming influence in his box has been?
The world No2’s shot selection has been questionable at times since Wimbledon, as if he feels the need to live up to his status as the most entertaining player in the game.
Nick Kyrgios hit the nail on the head on commentary when he said, in advice that could very much apply to himself: ‘He doesn’t always need to be so spectacular and hit crazy shots. People pay to watch him just for being who he is.
‘Sometimes he sets the bar so high. He’s going to win a lot of matches in his career just by showing up, he doesn’t have to be at his best.’