Alexander Zverev advanced to the quarter finals of the Australian Open for the first time in his career with a clinical 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory over Andrey Rublev on Monday.
Zverev had previously reached two Grand Slam quarter finals, both at Roland Garros, but he finally made the last eight of a major outside Paris with a superb win over Rublev.
Rublev had gone into the match on a 15-match winning streak, having claimed titles in Doha and Adelaide to open the season, but his unbeaten start to the year came to an end on Monday following a comprehensive defeat to childhood friend, Zverev.
Zverev has reached the last eight in Melbourne without dropping a set, beating Marco Cecchinato, Egor Gerasimov, Fernando Verdasco and Rublev to move into the quarters.
“It feels amazing,” said Zverev. “I played some great matches against some great opponents.
“The first match [against Marco Cecchinato] wasn’t the best, but I won… The second match wasn’t the best either, but I won. Then it went better and better. I hope it will continue being like that. The draw isn’t getting easier”.
Indeed, the world No. 7 will take on three-time major winner, Stan Wawrinka in the next round, after the Swiss got past Daniil Medvedev in five sets earlier in the day. The great news for the German is that he’s beaten Wawrinka in both of their previous meetings.
“Stan is a multiple Grand Slam champion”, Zverev said. “It’s going to be very difficult playing against him”.
“He showed why he’s a Grand Slam champion, beating [Daniil] Medvedev, coming back from two-sets-to-one down, playing great tennis. He’s still one of the toughest players to play, especially here in Australia.”
Zverev’s run has come as a bit of a surprise, giving the torrid start he had to the season at the ATP Cup. The German lost all of his three singles matches at the team event, falling to Denis Shapovalov, Alex De Minaur and Stefanos Tsitsipas and looked totally out of confidence.
He was particularly bothered by his serve- a carryover of his problems from last season. However, that shot has generally held up in Melbourne, and the rest of his game has followed accordingly. He was good from the service line against Rublev, hitting 11 aces, serving at 75% and converting 91% of points on his first serve. The German did not face any break point throughout the match, while he broke the Rublev serve once in each set to complete the hour and 37-minute victory.
“It felt good from start to finish,” said Zverev, who hit 34 winners and 23 unforced errors. “Obviously, it’s nice to get a win like that against a quality player… I’m happy with how it went.”
The 22-year-old Zverev is one of the pioneers of the ATP’s Next Gen (he’s now over the age limit), marked as a future world No. 1 and Grand Slam champion. Things were going according to plan up until the end of 2018, when he won the Nitto ATP Finals, and rose to No. 3 in the world, but he drifted a bit off track in 2019, failing to reach the heights he attained in the previous season. The German naturally came under plenty of scrutiny, with his unremarkable Grand Slam record gaining a lot of the negative attention.
He’s looked closer to his best over the last week in Melbourne, and is improving by the rounds. He will get the chance to reach his maiden major semi-final when he faces Stan Wawrinka on Wednesday.