In a stunning development at the Australian Open, German tennis star Alexander Zverev beat reigning Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz to advance to his second semifinal in Melbourne.
No. 6 Zverev’s 6-1, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4 victory over No. 2 Alcaraz comes amid swirling legal issues for the 26-year-old and set up a semifinal with No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, who advanced over No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz in five sets. Medvedev leads Zverev 11-7 all-time, including 5-3 on hardcourts.
“Look, I’m playing one of the best players in the world, especially over the last two years he’s been No. 1 or No. 2 constantly,” Zverev told Jim Courier on court. “He’s won two Grand Slams.
“When you’re 6-1, 6-3, 5-2, you start thinking. I mean, we’re all human and it’s a great honor to play against guys like him. Then when you’re so closed to winning, obviously your brain starts going and it’s not always helpful. But I’m happy I got to the end. I fought back quite well in the fourth set, didn’t let go and I’m very happy that I finished the match.”
In news that emerged during the tournament, Brenda Patea, the mother of Zverev’s daughter Mayla,has alleged to German officials “that Zverev pushed her against a wall and choked her during an argument in 2020,” according to a report from The Athletic. “Patea said she told friends about the incident at the time but did not report it to police until October 2021 because of a mixture of shame and concern for their daughter, who was born in March 2021.”
The Athletic further reported:
In October, a criminal court in Berlin issued a penalty order, fining Zverev nearly $500,000 (£393,000) in connection with Patea’s charges. In Germany, a prosecutor can seek a penalty order on cases it considers simple because there is compelling evidence that should not require a trial. The defendant has a right to contest the order, which Zverev has.
Speaking at the Paris Masters in November, Zverev described the penalty order as “complete bulls***”, adding, “Anybody that has a semi-standard IQ level knows what this is all about.” The player did not expand on the reasons for his objection. “I’m not going to comment on that to be honest because there is a procedure still to come,” he said.
A trial has been scheduled for late May, at the same time as the French Open. Zverev is not required to attend the trial and said last week he does not know if he will. His lawyers have called the legal process “scandalous” and said Zverev would take action “using all means possible”. The player will be considered innocent until a final ruling is made.
Olya Sharypova, another former Zverev girlfriend has also said Zverev repeatedly abused her in 2019 in New York, Shanghai, Monaco and Geneva. She made her allegations in Slate, and not to officials.
The ATP sanctioned a 15-month independent investigation conducted by The Lake Forest Group (LFG), a third-party investigator. The ATP said the Group “conducted extensive interviews with both Sharypova and Zverev, and 24 other individuals including family and friends, tennis players, and other parties involved with the ATP Tour.”
In January 2023, the ATP said: “No disciplinary action against Zverev will be taken by ATP. This determination may however be reevaluated should new evidence come to light, or should any legal proceedings reveal violations of ATP rules. Zverev has consistently denied all allegations and supported ATP’s investigation.”
The German star has maintained his innocence throughout and has criticized the press for making an issue out of his ongoing participation on the ATP Tour and the Player Council.
Amid these swirling legal issues, other players have been reluctant to comment on Zverev’s situation, but American Sloane Stephens, the former U.S. Open champion who recently stepped down from the WTA Player Council, said a similar situation would probably not exist on the women’s tour.
“The ATP kind of beats their own drum,” Stephens told reporters in Melbourne. “They do what they do on that side.”
“It’s a difficult situation,” Stephens added. “Someone very prominent in our sport… I think now that he will be going to trial and be facing whatever he is facing (the issue may be put to rest).
Courier did not ask Zverev about his legal woes in the on-court interview but broadcasters John and Patrick McEnroe and Chris Fowler discussed it during the match.
“It’s hard to imagine that he’s not distracted,” John McEnroe said on air.
Against Alcaraz, Zverev served for the match at 5-3 in the third set and was within two points of the match.
He later took a medical timeout to deal with a blister on his foot.
“Well, I have a lot of blood under my toenails, so that’s quite painful,” Zverev said on court. “And when you run a lot, they come back. So just had to re-tape it. I would much rather feel the way I’m feeling right now with maybe a bit of pain here and there and be in the semifinals than be at home right now and watch this tournament. That’s why I’m saying fine…and I’m ready to get going.”
A rejuvenated Alcaraz turned the tables and won the tiebreak while mixing in baseline winners with crafty drop shots. After looking overwhelmed in the first two sets, he was smiling toward his box and playing aggressive tennis.
It appeared it might go five sets but Zverev broke Alcaraz for 5-4 in the fourth set.
Serving for the match at 5-4, 40-30 Zverev banged a service winner and then met Alcaraz at the net.
On this day, at least, Zverev was laser-focused on his opponent and is now into his second Australian Open semifinal with a chance at his first major title. His lone appearance in a Grand Slam final came at the 2020 U.S. Open where he lost to Dominic Thiem.
“[Medvedev] has been kicking my ass a lot over the last year or so but maybe this will be it, I don’t know,” Zverev said. “Maybe this will be the place.
“I love playing Australia. We as players always say New York is the most energetic Slam, but for me the crowd is the best in Australia.”