That, then is us for today. But fear not, for tomorrow is a monster, our evening session featuring Barbora Krejcikova (9) v Aryna Sabalenka (2), followed by Jannik Sinner (4) v Andrey Rublev (5). So join me for that, but in the meantime, peace and love.
Dodin will rue the leg injury that hampered her, but she was well beaten tonight by a better player playing well. She tells Jelena Dokic she’s happy to be in the quarters and congratulates her opponent’s effort in reaching this stage. She thanks everyone for watching her and says representing China brings pressure and responsibility. She tries not to think too much but appreciates people watching her in China and around the world.
Li Na, a pioneer of women’s tennis in China, crashed her press conference after her last game and Zheng says she’s a very strong and powerful woman who’s more beautiful now than when she was playing. They shared a moment, Li advising her not to think too much and to keep thing simple, and it’s working. She’s into the last eight as the only seed in her half of the draw, and standing between her and a first Grand Slam final are Anna Kalinskaya then either Dayana Yastremska or Linda Nosková.
Another first serve, and Zheng is quickly at the net to stick away a clean-up backhand. But when Dodin gets a look at a second delivery, a backhand down the line is too good, making 15-all. A service-winner follows, though, Dodin forces to try a left-handed return because that’s the only way she can introduce racket to ball … to no avail. But another decent return earns 30-all and can Zheng find yet another first serve when she needs one? She can, but Dodin reads it and makes decent contact … only to see the ball drop long, just. Match point Zheng, but another good return, flat on the forehand, lands on the baseline to make deuce, and Dodin will be wondering what might’ve been, because this level of play throughout and we’d’ve seen a very different match. But a mistake behind hands Zheng advantage, a backhand response to a second serve thunks into the top of the net, and that is that.
Dodin will at least want to make Zheng serve for it, and at 30-15 a decent first serve yields a netted return. Then Zheng goes long so at 6-0 5-3 must hold her nerve to progress.
There we go! Dodin, who knows what a mare she’s having, unleashes a gorgeous forehand return cross-court for a clean winner; “first one,” she tells herself. Then, not for the first time, a Zheng first serve is too good, but a long, loopy forehand brings us to 30-all … but from there, two further errors mean she’s a game away from her second consecutive Slam quarter at 6-0 5-2.
I should say that Dodin is nursing an injury – I’ve not seen her play in Melbourne until now, so I’m not sure what it is as Jo Durie didn’t specify. But she’s in trouble again when Zheng powers a forehand winner for 0-15, after which a double makes 0-30. A wrongfooting swing-volley then halves the deficit, but when Zheng lands a forehand on to the line, Dodin goes into the net and at 15-40 has two more break points. And she only needs one, a nice backhand return setting up a forehand winner, and at 6-0 4-2 she’s two games away.
Dodin isn’t giving up and a double hands her 15-30, then Zheng nets a forehand and sends another long! That’s the break back, and can Dodin find the form that brought her to this point?
At 30-all on the Dodin serve, Zheng clobbers a forehand cross-court for a clean winner and another break point. And a further barrage of forehands builds pressure that’s too much for her opponent to handle, a backhand riposte dropping long. Zheng leads 6-0 3-1, and she looks unstoppable out there.
Dodin makes 0-15 … so Zheng slams down an ace. Still, though, this is improvement, and a decent forehand lands close to the baseline, inciting Zheng to go long. And you’ve got laugh, because another ace makes 30-all, a service winner 40-30 – she’s at 100% points won behind her first serve, which is a helluva stroke – then Dodin goes long on the forehand. But it’s more of a contest now, Zheng leading 6-0 2-1.
Come on Océane! She hits some first serves, holds to love, salutes the crowd, and despite it all she’s only down a set against an opponent who will do well to sustain her level. Zheng leads 6-0 1-1.
Women’s tennis, though. Just when we thought Swiatek, Sabalenka, Rybakina and Gauff would give it some stability, two of them go out early and we’re back to a free-for all. I’ve never known a sport be so unpredictable, but Zheng loooks fantastic out there, holding to 15for 6-0 1-0, and if she maintains this firm she’s capable of beating anyone. She’s serving very well and her forehand is dictating points like nobody’s business.
She cannot, saluting the crowd ands smiling when she makes 30-all with a serve out wide and forehand putaway … only for Zheng to stretch out wide to land a fine backhand return on to the line, before cleaning up point and set with a punishing forehand down the line. She is doing everything she can not to let slip the chance of her career so far.
Zheng holds to love for 5-0 and she’s playing really well here. Dodin will have to console herself with the knowledge that she can only improve, and the French in the crowd try to rouse her as she returns from change of ends to try and save the bagel.
I nip off for a quick comfort break and return to see Dodin down game point at 30-40. Zheng’s played the bigguns well so far, and another wild backhand hands her this one too. Down 0-4, Dodin has a lot of thinking to do with the set near-enough gone.
I can’t see the name Océane without my internal voice singing Oceanic’s rave classic and she’s into the match now, making 30-all then cracking a flat backhand winner down the line. Zheng, though, finds a first serve when down break point and uses the momentum to seize deuce, and on advantage a service winner gives her a 3-0 lead.
A booming inside-out forehand earns Zheng 15-30 and when Dodin swipes wildly wide she has two break points. And she only needs one, a fantastic crouching backhand down the line securing the break and 2-0.
Zheng, who’s beaten Amanda Krueger, Katie Boulter and Yifan Wang to get to this stage, holds through deuce for 1-0; Dodin has seen off Zhu Lin, Marta Trevisan and Cara Burel.
Dayana Yastremska, a qualifier, beat Victoria Azarenka, seeded 18, in two sets
Elina Svitolina (19) retired against Linda Nosková, who earlier beat Iga Swiatek (1)
Daniil Medvedev (3) beat Nuno Borges in four sets
Hubert Hurkacz (9) beat the qualifier Arthur Cazaux in three
And away we go, Zheng to serve.
“I did almost everything perfectly,” Alcaraz tells Eurosport. Imagine saying that of yourself at work! Anyroad, Zheng and Dodin are on court, so let’s move over to them – both will be sensing the opportunity of their lives, given the former is the only seed remaining in the top half and the latter is already celebrating her best Slam performance.
But but but but what about our working-day sport fix? I can’t lie, not much makes me happier, but it is of course ridiculous to see huge matches played in front of empty seats, with players given just a day to recover from them.
Carlos Alcaraz, though. It’s actually pretty rare to see someone as good as he is enjoy competing as much as he does because the pressure of talent is intense. Off the top of my head, George Best and Ronaldinho spring to mind, Harry Brook too. But there aren’t many.
Coming up next: Qinwen Zheng (12) v Océane Dodin
“I think everything,” Alcaraz says when asked what’s working for him – without the slightest trace of arrogance. Every ball he pushed Kecmanovic to the limit, he explains, moving him side to side, and he’s feeling better and better every day he plays on Laver. It’s a pleasure to play on an amazing court, the people in Australia are so kind – I take it he’s not met any England cricketers – and he hopes to keep feeling better and better every day.
Asked about his routine for the day, he says he eats sushi the night before a match – “I love it” and told how much other players enjoy watching him, he explains that he’s “a huge fan of tennis” so tries to watch every match he can. But he namechecks Medvedev, Djokovic and Sinner as they deliver their best level every time they step on the court and asked about WTA, he says he watches that too but doesn’t specify any players.
Finally, he says he loves playing Zverev because it’ll be high quality and intensity, so he’ll try to play his best tennis and see what happens.
Yet another inspirational performance from the barely believable bundle of joy, aggression and invention that is the boy Carlitos. It’s still shocking how brilliant he is, and he meets Zverev next, with the sense that he’s still improving through the rounds.
I say Kecmanovic is wilting, but he’s not giving up, making 30-all from 30-0 only to be left marooned at the back by another lush drop. Match point Alcaraz after just one hour and 49 minutes.
Kecmanovic has played well today but he’s wilting in the third set. I don’t see precisely what happens as my computer crashes, but Alcaraz breaks for a third time and will now serve for the match at 5-0.
It’s just nuts how good Alcaraz is really, and nutser still that he’ll probably lose the final to Djokovic. Looking ahead again, I’d actually prefer Medvedev v Djokovic and Sinner v Alcaraz semis because those would, I think, give us better contests – Medvedev can hang in rallies with Djokovic and Sinner can hit through Alcaraz – but I’ll cope. Alcaraz holds for 4-0, and he’s coming to a rolling boil at just the right time.
Excellent from Kecmanovic, who sweeps a nails backhand cross to save double-break point. But Alcaraz raises another … then mistimes a forehand, so we’re back to deuce. Not for long, his speed along the baseline inciting his opponent to go for too much, and this time on advantage he invents a forehand of shocking speed and angle for a 6-4 6-4 3-0 lead. The energy, invention and zest he brings to the court is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and, at 44, I’m sad to say I’ve seen a bit.
Alcaraz consolidates easily and leads 2-0 in the third. It’s very hard to see how Zverev beats him, but his potential semi with Medvedev could be a lot of fun – likewise, if it works out, Djokovic v Sinner.
Immediately in set three Alcaraz forces break point at 30-40, but Kecmanovic isn’t going away, sending him haring to hither and yon before the number two seed finds a cunning looping volley that forces the error and he leads 6-4 6-4 1-0. Kecmanovic is not long for this match.
Kecmanovic is doing all he can, but it’s not enough.
Zverev says it’s a Grand Slam, everyone’s playing their best tennis and Cam played great. Asked what makes the AO so special, he offers the crowd, saying though people says New York is the most energetic, the Melbourne crowd is the best because they’re both energetic and respectful. Asked to give tips on how to hit backhands like him, he advises “close your hands and swing”, then says all his family, his dad, mum and brothers, have great backhands. They can’t hold a racket on the fore nor serve, he’s just lucky to be 6”6 “or two metres, whatever you say here,” which helps.
Discussing the next round, he jokes that he’s Kecmanovic’s biggest fan now, then says Alcaraz has already had a more successful career than most players, and though the Aussie Open crowd don’t really know him yet, they will over the next 25 years. Finally, asked to sing happy birthday to his dad, he admits he forgot then leads the crowd in a rendition.
Zverev is now 5-0 on breakers this tournament and he played this one superbly, attacking judiciously and serving as ever. Norrie, though, will take plenty of positives – he came back from 1-0 and 2-1 down, from a break down in the decider, and he did it by playing brave, attacking tennis having beaten Casper Ruud in the previous round. But it’s the number six seed who perogresses and he’ll meet Kecmanovic or Alcaraz next.
Zverev goes long on the forehand and Norrie isn’t giving in, celebrating the point like he’s just levelled things. He has not. He nets a forehand, and at change of ends is facing six match points at 3-9.
Yup, throughout this set it’s been Norrie pushing the pace, but with victory in sight Zverev opens up, booming backhands making 7-2 and a netted forehand 8-2. This is over, but what a match it’s been.
Again, Zverev nudges in front via mini-break and again Norrie tries a drop, but he gets his angles wrong and the ball bounces out; 4-2 to the German, and when he yanks his man to the net, Norrie misses with his get, slicing just wide. Ach, a double follows, just his second in over four hours, and down 2-6 this looks very close to over.
Immediate mini-break for Zverev when Norrie nets, but yet another gorgeous drop quickly restores parity. His touch is sensational, likewise his disguise, and his desire to play the right shot not the safe shot is so impressive; we wind up at 2-2 while, on Laver, Alcaraz breaks Kecmanovic for 6-4 4-3.
Kecmanovic is playing really well now – he’s enjoying himself and it shows. He’s about to serve trailing 4-6 3-3 and you assume that at some point Alcaraz will do enough to take the set, but it’s an enjoyable tussle. Meantime, Zverev holds to love and we’ve ourselves a 10-point breaker! Here it comes!