Zverev halts Rublev juggernaut to reach first Melbourne quarters


MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Seventh seed Alexander Zverev of Germany strolled past childhood friend Andrey Rublev 6-4 6-4 6-4 on Monday to end the Russian’s 15-match winning streak and book his maiden quarter-final spot in the Australian Open.

Rublev arrived in Melbourne having won titles in Doha and Adelaide at the start of the season while he also won all four singles matches he contested at the season-ending Davis Cup Finals in November.

In stark contrast, Zverev came to the year’s first Grand Slam lacking confidence after losing all three of his singles matches at the inaugural ATP Cup to Australia’s Alex de Minaur, Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.

But the German has showed no signs of any baggage at Melbourne Park, cruising through his four matches at the tournament without dropping a set.

“It feels amazing,” said Zverev. “I played some great matches against some great opponents. This is Andrey’s first loss of the season. He’s won two tournaments already, made to the fourth round here, playing unbelievable tennis.

“I’m just happy to be playing how I’m playing. Because after ATP Cup I wasn’t sure I am going to be winning any matches here to be honest. But it’s all going well and hope I can continue.”

The German put in a clinical performance, breaking his opponent’s serve once in each set while not facing a single breakpoint of his own.

Zverev won 49 of his 54 first-service points, struck 11 aces and hit his 34th winner to complete the win in an hour and 37 minutes.

He had an extended chat with Rublev at the net after giving a warm hug to the Russian.

“We have been close friends since we were 10-years-old,” Zverev said. “Just reminded him how far we got together.

“Because a lot of juniors, a lot of young kids would dream about playing the fourth round of a Grand Slam against one of his best friends, just reflect on that a little bit.

“I just told him we’re going to play many more big matches.”

Zverev will next face former champion Stan Wawrinka, who earlier battled past Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev 6-2 2-6 4-6 7-6(2) 6-2, for a place in the last four.

“The draw isn’t getting easier. Stan is a Grand Slam champion, multiple Grand Slam champion. It’s going to be very difficult playing against him,” Zverev said.

“He showed why he’s a Grand Slam champion, beating 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.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Christian Radnedge