A thumbs up after a tumble for Austrian star Dominic Thiem. Picture: Getty Images
A thumbs up after a tumble for Austrian star Dominic Thiem. Picture: Getty Images

‘My girlfriend is happy’: Zverev unlocks secret to success

ALEXANDER Zverev has booked an Australian Open quarter-final showdown with popular two-time Melbourne Park champion Stan Wawrinka.

Zverev was dominant, defeating childhood rival and close friend Andrey Rublev 6-4 6-4 6-4 at Melbourne Arena.

The 22 year-old had only reached the quarter-final stage of a grand slam twice before Monday night - both at the French Open.

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"I'm just happy to be playing how I'm playing because after the ATP Cup I wasn't sure if I was going to win any matches here to be honest," Zverev said.

Zverev blasted 34 winners in the emphatic display and fired down 11 aces.

The German star, who has not dropped a set at Melbourne Park this year, faces a stern test on Wednesday against lion-hearted Wawrinka.

Zverev is rounding into some impressivf form.
Zverev is rounding into some impressivf form.

Zverev has won both previous encounters with the long-time Swiss No.2.

"I'm playing a former champion now," a relaxed and upbeat Zverev said.

"It's going to be very difficult. It's going to be tough but I'm ready for it."

Zverev is the second member of his family to reach the quarter-final stage of the Australian Open, following older brother Mischa, who knocked out then world No.1 Andy Murray in 2017.

After being susceptible to meltdowns in recent years, Zverev has stabilised life off the court and in turn got rewards for it.

 

"My dad is happy, my team is happy, my girlfriend is happy, everybody is happy and that makes life a lot easier," Zverev said

"I feel like there is maybe less stress in my life, I don't know, I'm just happy to be here."

With his fifth win at Melbourne Park already, Zverev will contribute $50,000 to Australian bushfire appeals.

The German has remarkably also pledged the entire $4.12m winners' cheque, if able to win a breakthrough grand slam.

"(There's) still a few matches to go hopefully, for me," Zverev said.

 

STANIMAL STUNS RUSSIAN ICE MAN

The 'Stanimal' and his bludgeoning backhand are back.

Swiss veteran Stan Wawrinka thrust himself into Australian Open contention with a five-set epic, six years after holding aloft his first Grand Slam trophy at Melbourne Park.

The 34-year-old veteran did it the hard way in progressing to the quarter-finals, winning in five sets against Russian fourth-seed Daniil Medvedev.

Once it got to five sets, Big Stan was always in the box seat. Picture: Getty Images
Once it got to five sets, Big Stan was always in the box seat. Picture: Getty Images

Medvedev, 23, is seen as the man most likely to usurp the trio of established trio of stars in men's tennis and yet, like so many before him, ran aground as the victim of Wawrinka's favourite weapon.

The three-time grand slam champion battled for more than 18 months with a serious knee injury through 2017-18 and had not advanced past the second round at Melbourne Park since 2017.

Yet 15th seed Wawrinka peeled off the final two sets to win 2-6 6-2 4-6 7-6 6-2. He displayed the kind of all-court game that means no one will discount him, despite his veteran status.

He will next play No.7 seed Alexander Zverev.

Wawrinka's fierce groundstrokes had been dulled by Medvedev in a four-set loss at the US Open last year and a third-round win against John Isner this week came only after the big-serving American withdrew mid-match with a foot injury.

It meant this match was pitched as the changing of the guard, especially after Medvedev franked his emerging form with a finals appearance in the US Open last year.

Instead Wawrinka's second five-set victory this Open, after outlasting Andreas Seppi, gave him confidence he can go all the way.

Medvedev showed plenty of pluck, but was outlasted by the veteran. Picture: Getty Images
Medvedev showed plenty of pluck, but was outlasted by the veteran. Picture: Getty Images

"This was another amazing match, an amazing atmosphere," he said after another Margaret Court Arena victory.

"It's pretty tough to play against Daniil, I lost against him in the US Open and came back pretty strong against him. The level was super high and the atmosphere was super high.

"It is amazing to keep playing here and to play at that level. Today I am really happy with what I have done on the court.

"I won my first slam here and it's always going to be special."

Wawrinka's backhand has always been a thing of beauty, but he was determined to use strategy to take down Medvedev, too.

He repeatedly tapped the side of his head in a message to himself to control terms with brains as well as brawn instead of using reckless aggression.

"I was finding a solution," he said.

"I was losing confidence a bit and had to fight against myself to play a little bit against my game but I had to fight and stay with it and stay positive."

A thumbs up after a tumble for Austrian star Dominic Thiem. Picture: Getty Images
A thumbs up after a tumble for Austrian star Dominic Thiem. Picture: Getty Images

 

THIEM TOO COOL FOR MONFILS, EX-COACH PRESSURE

Unflappable Austrian Dominic Thiem has marched into the Australian Open quarterfinals after dodging off-court sledges as well as on-court inspiration from a dangerous foe.

The No.5 seed was imperious in a straight-sets defeat of Frenchman Gael Monfils despite enduring the full bag of tricks from his enigmatic rival.

Monfils' underarm serve on game point early in the second set was so perfectly executed that Thiem failed to get his racquet to the Kyrgios-inspired sleight of hand.

For the second match straight Thiem dodged questions about his decision to jettison new coach Thomas Muster two matches into this tournament.

Thiem had pitched the sudden decision on the fresh pairing as mutual, yet Austrian legend Muster hit back with the withering comment that Thiem had many issues, "foremost in the mental area".

Then came the kicker from Muster: "It is like this: There are houses which look nice from the outside, wonderful from the outside, but you rarely know who lives inside".

Gael Monfils couldn’t match it with the Austrian. Picture: Getty Images
Gael Monfils couldn’t match it with the Austrian. Picture: Getty Images

Those on and off-court challenges were exactly the kind that might combine to drag down a less robust character.

Yet instead of crumbling, Thiem advanced to the quarterfinals with a performance so dominant he didn't even face a break point in the 6-2 6-4 6-4 victory.

After a superb season that included the Indian Wells title and another French Open final loss, he faces Rafael Nadal in a Wednesday quarterfinal.

Thiem now boasts a 6-0 career tally against the slippery Monfils, again backing in his decision to extricate himself from his relationship with Muster.

"Nothing bad happened there. We said if the relationship doesn't work out we are going to stop it and that was the case," he said.

"I think it's always difficult. Especially for me at the stage where I am trying to find something perfect to add to my team.

"I just had the feeling that it's not going to work out together and it's why we finished.

"I am 26, I cannot explain what feeling it was (to sack Muster) but it was just there so I decided to take that decision and continue like I worked last year because it worked very well."

Monfils congratulates Thiem on his victory. Picture: AAP
Monfils congratulates Thiem on his victory. Picture: AAP

Thiem's Roland Garros finals loss was followed by first-round losses at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows, which took the gloss of his Grand Slam performance for 2020.

Yet he continues to build in this tournament, full of belief after a fourth consecutive win that was clearly his best ball-striking performance.

"Yesterday at practice and today I just had a great feeling with the stroke and was feeling physically very good. The way I played the match with early breaks, all three sets went with everything in my direction," he said.

"I played a very good match from the beginning to the end. It is easy to say it was by far my best at the Australian Open."



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