“I’m still young, so I got time.”
Those are key words from Alexander Zverev on Saturday, following his five-set defeat to Next Gen ATP Finals champion Chung Hyeon in the Australian Open third round.
The No. 4 seed became the highest ranked casualty in the men’s draw and he bowed out by consuming a fifth-set bagel from an on-fire Chung.
In 11 Grand Slam main draw appearances, the 20-year-old Zverev has made it past the third round just once, reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon last year. While the young German has enjoyed massive breakthroughs at ATP tournaments, winning two Masters 1000 events last year, by defeating Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the finals, he has been unable to replicate that form and success at the majors and he is understandably stumped as to why that has been the case.
“I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in Grand Slams,” a usually defiant Zverev conceded on Saturday. “It happened at Wimbledon. It happened in New York. It happened here.
“I’m still young, so I got time,” he added with a smile. “I definitely have some figuring out to do for myself.”
It’s often easy to forget how young Zverev is because he carries himself in a way that exudes confidence and seems unfazed by taking on the top guys. But a closer look tells a different story.
Zverev, understandably as a 20-year-old, still needs to mature in different areas. He is temperamental on the court but unlike some, who feed off that anger, it rarely pays off for Zverev.
He says things like: “I think I should have won in four sets.” Perhaps a better way to look at it is why he lost the plot in the fifth?
I often feel there is a lot of “should” in Zverev’s way of thinking. He thinks journalists “should” know every single word he’s ever said in press, he believes he should have done this or that… With maturity, he’ll gain a more open perspective.
The pressure he feels on his shoulders is, naturally, heightened at the Slams and the key is to figure out a way to deal with it better and learn how to navigate the best-of-five format in a more efficient manner, and work it to his advantage. He is very fit physically and he admitted his problem on Saturday was “definitely not physical”.
You get the sense Zverev finds it hard to switch to a different gear when things aren’t going his way in the Slams, even though he has the talent that allows him to dig deep into his reserves if he wants to.
He will no doubt learn from these tough Slam losses, and like he noted, he has plenty of time to figure things out. For now, it’s back to the drawing board for Team Zverev — he’s got a stellar pair in his corner with his father Alexander Sr. and ex-world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero both coaching him — who have to prepare him to defend lots of points this season.
This loss was by no means a catastrophe, and Zverev is too gifted to not perform well at the majors, but it will be interesting to follow his journey to that Slam success he seems destined to achieve.
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) January 20, 2018
HERO OF THE DAY
Simona Halep, on a dodgy ankle, overcame Lauren Davis in a three-hour 44-minute battle, 15-13 in the third, to make the fourth round. She saved three match points and served for the match four times. A win like this can do wonders to her confidence. Here’s hoping the ankle holds up so we get a great fourth round between her and Japanese youngster Naomi Osaka.
UPSET OF THE DAY
Chung‘s win over Zverev was his first against a top-10 opponent in his career, which earned him a maiden fourth round appearance at a major.
There is plenty to like about the 58th-ranked 21-year-old Chung. But his next opponent Novak Djokovic says it best: “I’m looking forward to the next challenge, you know. Hyeon Chung, who has beat Zverev today, a big win for him, someone that is very disciplined, one of the NextGens. He won in Milano last year. He’s playing great. He’s fit. He doesn’t have too many holes in his game. He’s very nice guy. You can see he’s a hard worker. It pays off.”
“It was a really tough game against Alex Zverev… I’m just trying to play 100% and that was the key today.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2018
MATCH OF THE DAY
Hsieh Su-Wei’s clash with Agnieszka Radwanska was everything you’d expect it to be from two women who boast incredible shot creativity.
It was art. It was chess. It was Tai Chi!
Do yourself a favour and find a highlights reel for that masterpiece. Hsieh won 6-2, 7-5.
QUOTES OF THE DAY
“We should not forget that this is a sport. It’s not business. But it became business more than sport, unfortunately, because of an industry that we are part of and which gives us a great life in terms of financial compensations and what we get for the performances. Absolutely I’m grateful for that, but at the same time there has to be a balance between everything. I’m afraid that we are losing that balance a little bit today.”
— Novak Djokovic.
“It’s kind of silly, right? It feels kind of silly.”
— Tennys Sandgren on the fact that he has made the Australian Open fourth round.
“Some sleep, some chocolate, and actually hot chocolate I will have after.”
— Halep doesn’t want to think about tennis following her three-set epic. This is what she wants to think about.
“I am always happy if I’m not the drama.”
— Madison Keys happy to stay under the radar so far in Melbourne.
“I made a commitment to myself before this tournament that I’m going to be my own best friend and just my greatest supporter, and accept all that God has to give me.”
— Awesome perspective from Davis.
STATS OF THE DAY
3 – Chung is just the third Korean player to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam.
10 – times Tomas Berdych has made the fourth round at the Australian Open, the most by a Czech man, overtaking Ivan Lendl.
48 – games played in the match between Halep and Davis, which is equal most for a women’s match in Melbourne in the Open Era.
90 – match wins for Roger Federer at the Australian Open following his straight-sets triumph over Richard Gasquet in the third round on Saturday.
DRAMA OF THE DAY
Radwanska had to involve the supervisor today during her match with Hsieh. A Hsieh ball was called out, Radwanska hit back the ball anyway. Umpire Tom Sweeney overruled and said it was in. Then somehow decided to give the point to Hsieh and not replay it. That meant Radwanska would fall behind 0-40 on her own serve.
Radwanska, who seldom gets angry on the court, was fuming as she argued with Sweeney that the point should be replayed because she hit the ball, and it wasn’t a clear winner from Hsieh. She immediately got the supervisor involved and Radwanska actually won the argument, with the supervisor overruling the umpire’s decision. She still got broken in that game to go down 0-2 in the second set but lesson learned: You don’t mess with the ninja!
Novak Djokovic battled with a lower back injury as he claimed his 11th round of 16 appearance at the Australian Open on Saturday.
The six-time champion advanced with a clear-cut 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over Spanish 21st seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in 2hr 21min on Margaret Court Arena.
But there was concern in the Serb’s camp when the former world No.1 sought a medical timeout early in the second set for treatment to his lower back.
Djokovic, looking for matches after six months out with right elbow trouble, will next face South Korea’s Chung Hyeon in Sunday’s fourth round after he shocked Alexander Zverev.
The injury was a fresh concern for the 12-time Grand Slam champion, whose ranking has slipped to 14 after an inactive second half of 2017.
But Djokovic was workmanlike as broke the Spaniard’s serve five times, although his errors outnumbered his winners 40-37.
“It was a straight sets win, but it was almost two-and-a-half hours, so it wasn’t that easy and comfortable on the court,” Djokovic said.
“I knew coming into the match that he was a great fighter, he grinds it out and gets a lot of balls back.
“Obviously for me it’s taking it one match at a time but I have to be more humble with my expectations as I haven’t played in the last six months.
“But I am very pleased where my game is at.”
Should Djokovic beat Chung he is facing a potential quarter-final against Austria’s fifth seed Dominic Thiem, who must first get past American surprise packet Tennys Sandgren on Monday.
Simona Halep saved three match points and served for victory four times in an extraordinary encounter against Lauren Davis before eventually booking her spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
The top seeds in the women’s tournament have all had their dramas this week but none quite like this.
American Davis traded toe to toe with the world number one for three hours and 44 minutes but Halep finally forced a match point and took it for a 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 victory.
The 26-year-old said: “Definitely it was a very tough match. So long. I never played the third set so long. I was very happy I could stay and win it. I’m almost dead but I’m happy we could show great tennis.”
The final set lasted two hours and 22 minutes while the 48 games equals the most for a women’s match in Australian Open history, tying the 1996 quarter-final between Chanda Rubin Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, which Rubin won 6-4, 2-6, 16-14.
“I just kept playing. I just kept believing that it’s not over, even if she’s leading a little bit more,” said Halep, who next faces Naomi Osaka for a place in the quarter-finals.
“I gave everything I had today, and actually, I’m really proud that I could stay there and win it. It was not easy at all. She played great.”
Halep suffered an ankle injury in round one but looked to have shrugged it off in a convincing win over Eugenie Bouchard on Thursday.
Her biggest problem here was Davis, ranked 76 but playing significantly above that, as she came from a break down to take the opening set in her first ever match against a world number one.
Halep hit back to level and it appeared the danger might have passed but Davis simply would not go away.
Three times the top seed served for a place in the fourth round at 5-4, 6-5 and 8-7 and three times Davis broke back.
Halep and Davis… Can we change the rules and let both girls win?? What a match! #AO2018
— Arina Rodionova (@arinarodionova) January 20, 2018
At 1.68cm for Halep and 1.57m for Davis, this was a clash between two of the smaller players on the women’s tour, but what they lack in height they more than make up for in speed and agility.
The court coverage from both was exceptional but it was Davis’ belief that really stood out, the American having no qualms about unleashing big shots at the most important moments.
On and on they went, the cooler Melbourne temperatures making things easier, but this was still an immense physical effort from both women.
After saving four break points at 10-10, Davis looked poised to clinch victory when she moved to 0-40 on the Halep serve in the next game only for the Romanian to fight back.
The effort was taking its toll on Davis’ toenails and she took an emergency medical time-out before saving five more break points in the next game.
But at 13-13, Davis’ legs finally began to let her down, and, when Halep served for the match a fourth time, there was no coming back.
“I think now I’m much stronger. Mentally, of course, I was talking a lot during the match. And yeah, I was a little bit frustrated because of the leg. I felt the pain all match, but I didn’t give up,” said Halep, who last year blew a 6-4, 3-0 lead to lose the French Open final to Jelena Ostapenko.
“For sure I’m stronger mentally, and I could resist like for every moment in the match. That makes me very happy, and I think the big win is that I could handle it.”
Davis may have walked away from the match without her toenails, but she takes plenty of positives from that monster battle. She also paid tribute to Halep.
“I have always looked up to Halep, because she’s probably like two inches taller than me. She’s an incredible player. She uses her speed to take time away and rush her opponent. She’s super agile and dynamic around the court. That’s exactly how I play,” said Davis.
“Yeah, I have always looked up to her and I think we have shown the world that we can be the best, yeah.”
Osaka crushed home hearts on Saturday with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Australian Ashleigh Barty, the No. 18 seed.
“I feel really happy but also I’m kind of sorry because I know you guys really wanted her to win. Thank you very much because I’ve never played in an atmosphere like this. I’ve always wanted to play against an Australian player because on TV it always seems really cool,” a gracious Osaka told the crowd on Margaret Court Arena.
“I feel really happy but kind of sorry, because I know all of you wanted Ash to win!”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 20, 2018
Halep beat Osaka in their two previous meetings in two tight three-setters and the top seed is well aware of the challenge of the power-hitting Japanese.
“Osaka is hitting strong, so strong. I have to be strong, if I can, on my legs, and just stay there, playing fast, opening the court, as I do all the time,” said Halep.