No escape from Alcaraz as Carlos curbs Serb

IT WAS a timely reminder of what he is capable of, with Spanish world number two Carlos Alcaraz taking no prisoners against Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open yesterday. The second favourite for the Grand Slam title, Alcaraz took care of his opponent 6-4 6-4 6-0 to set up a huge quarter final against German, Alexander Zverev.

In a match that lasted one hour and 49 minutes, Alcaraz was emphatic, winning 83 and 64 per cent of his first and second serve points respectively. He produced five aces among 43 winners, 20 of which came off his brutal forehand, leaving Kecmanovic helpless to try and stop him.

The second seed only committed two more unforced errors (19-17), as Kecmanovic hit just 14 winners, unable to get past the Spanish star as he reached the last eight in a Grand slam yet again. Never facing a break point throughout the three-set contest, he broke five times from nine chances and incredibly despite dominating from the baseline, won 16 of 22 at the net as well.

While Kecmanovic pushed Alcaraz in their first head-to-head two years ago in Miami – 6-7 6-3 7-6 – there was no such tightness under lights at Melbourne Park, as “everything” went right for the second seed.

“I think everything went perfectly,” Alcaraz said post-match. “Miami 2022 was a really close match, high level from both parts. I think today was a pretty good match as well, but I pushed him to the limit in every ball, in every point.

“Obviously he has played a lot of matches, a lot of tough matches before this one so probably physically he wasn’t at his 100 per cent. Every ball I push him to the limit, moving him side to side. I could take my chances in every set.”

Alcaraz was one of four winners on day nine, as all the favourites booked their spot in the quarter finals. His next opponent – Zverev – had the toughest battle of all, taking down 19th seeded Brit, Cameron Norrie in a four-hour, five-set contest.

Leading two sets to one, the German could not shake off his opponent until a deciding fifth set super tiebreak 10-3, in a 7-5 3-6 6-3 4-6 7-6 victory. Norrie actually hit more winners (56-54) but also more unforced errors (63-41) in a far more aggressive game than he might typically produce, though Zverev’s 15 aces and 76 per cent first serve percentage stood out.

Third seed Daniil Medvedev ended the run of the lowest ranked remaining male in the Australian Open, seeing off Portugal’s Nuno Borges in four sets, 6-3 7-6 5-7 6-1. Though the world number 69 can be proud of his career-best run to the fourth round – the first Portugese player to do so at a Grand Slam – he was unable to get past the Russian who finished strongly in three hours and seven minutes to win, 6-4 7-6 5-7 6-1.

In the other match, ninth seeded Polish talent Hubert Hurkacz snuffed out the final Frenchman in the draw, surprise Round of 16 participant, wildcard Arthur Cazaux in a tight three-set match. Serving 18 aces to 11 among both players producing 41 winners, Hurkacz was able to advance 7-6 7-6 6-4 in two hours and 28 minutes to set up a huge final eight match against Medvedev.

Looking ahead to day 10 and world number one and tournament favourite Novak Djokovic faces top American talent Taylor Fritz this afternoon as he eyes off an 11th Australian Open title. In the night match, the fourth and fifth seeds go head-to-head with Italian Jannik Sinner and Russian Andrey Rublev locking horns in the other quarter final.

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