The Malta Independent 27 May 2024, Monday
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Medvedev, Zverev into Australian Open quarterfinals; Noskova, Yastremska advance

Associated Press Monday, 22 January 2024, 11:28 Last update: about 5 months ago

 Carlos Alcaraz completed a Grand Slam set by reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time, setting up a showdown against Olympic champion Alexander Zverev.

The 20-year-old Wimbledon champion missed the season-opening major in 2023 because of injury but is more than making up for lost time.

The No. 2-seeded Alcaraz beat Miomir Kecmanovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 in less than two hours Monday to open the night session on Rod Laver Arena.

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He has dropped just one set en route to the last eight. Zverev is there for the third time but is coming off some long five-set wins, including a four-hour, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (3) fourth-round victory over No. 19 Cameron Norrie.

It was the 32nd five-set match so far at Melbourne Park, a tournament record in the Open era.

Their match on Margaret Court Arena was prolonged after being delayed briefly when a protester threw anti-war pamphlets onto the back of the court in the third set. The protester was escorted out by security.

No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, a two-time Australian Open runner-up, beat No. 69-ranked Nuno Borges 6-3, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-1 and will next face No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz, who ended the run of French wild-card entry Arthur Cazaux 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3), 6-4.

While the highly-ranked players continue to advance in the men’s draw, the seeded players keep toppling out on the women's side. And that has opened opportunities for Dayana Yastremska and Linda Noskova to advance to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.

Yastremska beat the 18th-seeded Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (6), 6-4, a two-time Australian Open champion, and No. 23-seeded Elina Svitolina had to retire after hurting her back when she was trailing Noskova 3-0.

Anna Kalinskaya beat No. 26 Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-2 in a later match.

Azarenka served for the first set twice and had two set points at 6-5 but couldn’t convert them. Yastremska was down a break in the second but rallied to win six of the last seven games.

“I think I need to take a thousand breaths because my heart I think is going to jump out of my body,” Yastremska said. "During the match, I was imagining how I lost already like 25 times. I was losing the tiebreak, second set I was losing, I always felt I was running behind the train.

“But because I’m a little bit of a fighter I think I won this match.” There was no handshake, as is the convention between Ukrainian players and opponents from Russia and Belarus.

The first game of the Noskova-Svitolina match lasted 11 minutes and contained 20 points. Noskova broke serve and held for 2-0 before Svitolina had a timeout and received treatment on her lower back.

When she resumed, the Ukrainian’s serve speed was well down and her movement appeared compromised. After being broken for a second time and holding back tears, Svitolina shook Noskova’s hand and retired.

“I got a spasm, like a shooting pain,” she said. “Couldn’t do anything, completely locked my back, just very sad. I had some injuries to my back before where it just was tiredness ... but this one was really out of nowhere. I felt like someone shot me in the back.”

The 19-year-old Noskova beat top-ranked Iga Swiatek in the third round and now is the youngest player to reach the Australian Open women’s singles quarterfinals since 2008.

“Obviously today was not the way I had planned to win,” she said. “I feel for Elina, I hope she gets very well soon.”

Medvedev had two match points at 5-4 in the third set but Borges forced a fourth, only to fade as the Russian pulled away for victory.

“Third set was tough physically because he was playing very aggressive,” Medvedev said. “As soon as I would hit one shot that was not aggressive or deep enough he would just go full power. It was pretty impressive.

“After the third set, I just hoped it would not be five sets and I’m glad it wasn’t.”

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