Carlos Alcaraz insisted he was happy with his Australian Open efforts despite falling to a quarter-final loss against Alexander Zverev.
The Wimbledon champion had been in excellent form in Melbourne and threatened a comeback after a slow start but it was Zverev who moved through to the last four thanks to a 6-1 6-3 6-7 (2) 6-4 victory clinched at 1.19am.
In his seventh grand slam semi-final, Zverev will take on third seed Daniil Medvedev, who earlier battled past Hubert Hurkacz in five sets.
Alcaraz was heavily fancied to make it an all top-four semi-final line-up but he looked very tight at the start and Zverev took full advantage, barely missing a first serve and striking his groundstrokes with power and precision.
The German has faced a lot of off-court scrutiny regarding his forthcoming domestic abuse trial – he denies the allegations – but his ability as a tennis player is unquestionable.
Alcaraz briefly rallied in the second set but he was staring at defeat inside two hours when Zverev served for victory at 5-3 in the third.
The Spaniard was not done yet, finally breaking the Zverev serve and then playing a sublime tie-break, but ultimately there were too many errors from his racket.
“I’m sad with my level today, because I have been playing good tennis, the round before this one with a lot of confidence. Serving pretty well.
“But in general I leave the tournament happy. Forgetting about today’s level. Obviously quarter-final of a grand slam is good. It’s not what I’m looking for, but it’s not bad.
“It’s a shame that I started the match like the way that I did and ending the way that I did. But it’s tennis.”
Alcaraz played down the impact of being without his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who is back in Spain recovering from knee surgery.
Zverev, who lost his only grand slam final to Dominic Thiem at the US Open in 2020, received treatment for blisters on his foot at the end of the third set but rallied well, helped by a phenomenal serving display.
“When you’re up 6-1 6-3 5-2, you start thinking,” said the sixth seed, for whom this was a first win over a top-five opponent at a grand slam.
“It’s not always helpful but I’m happy I got there in the end. I fought back quite well in the fourth set.”
Earlier, Medvedev struggled in the heat of the day against ninth seed Hurkacz, who was looking to make the last four at a grand slam for only the second time.
The Pole twice fought back from a set down but Medvedev came out on top 7-6 (4) 2-6 6-3 5-7 6-4 after three hours and 59 minutes.
The Russian finished it off with a drop shot before blowing kisses towards his box.
Medvedev will now try to reach the final for the third time in four years, and he said: “I’m so destroyed right now. I was feeling very tired physically at the end of the second set already.
“In the fourth set, he played good, I wasn’t beating myself up. I had no more concentration, I thought, ‘I just have to try my best to do whatever I can. If I lose, I lose and I go home. It’s OK’.
“I’m happy that like this I managed to win and I really liked the match point.”