Australian Open: Alexander Zverev sweeps past Stan Wawrinka to make first Grand Slam semis

Alexander Zverev fired 13 aces against just one double fault, with a first-serve percentage of 80 percent. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Australian Open: Alexander Zverev sweeps past Stan Wawrinka to make first Grand Slam semis

  • The seventh seed was thumped in the first set but recovered to grind down the 2014 champion
  • Zverev fired 13 aces against just one double fault, with a first-serve percentage of 80 percent

MELBOURNE: German young gun Alexander Zverev stormed into his first Grand Slam semifinal on Wednesday, rallying from a set down to shatter the dreams of veteran Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open.
The seventh seed was thumped in the first set but recovered to grind down the 2014 champion 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in hot sun on Rod Laver Arena.
He will face either world number one Rafael Nadal or Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the last four, with a final beckoning against Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.
“It feels awesome,” said Zverev who has been donating $10,000 for each win at Melbourne Park to Australian bushfire relief, and will even hand over the A$4.12 million ($2.78 million) winner’s cheque if he clinches the title.
“I’ve done well at other tournaments and in other matches but could never break that barrier in Grand Slams. You can’t imagine what this means to me.
“I hope it will be the first of many.”
Big things have been tipped for Zverev since he burst into the top 10 in 2017, but until now the 22-year-old has not fully delivered, slipping down the rankings last year to seven from four at the start of the season.
But after a poor build-up to the year’s opening Major at the ATP Cup, where he lost all three matches, he worked hard on the practice court and has been in fine touch to finally make a Grand Slam last four at his 19th attempt.
His serve, a key focus of his extended practices, was a weapon once again against 34-year-old three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka.
He fired 13 aces against just one double fault, with a first-serve percentage of 80 percent.
It was Wawrinka who came out of the blocks firing, putting immediate pressure on the Zverev serve, getting his returns back to break straight away when the German netted a half-volley.
Zverev won just four points in the opening three games as he struggled to get the measure of Wawrinka, and he was broken again when he shanked a forehand high into the crowd.
The German finally held to get himself on the scoreboard but the Swiss was moving and serving well, unleashing some crunching groundstrokes to take the set in just 24 minutes.
Zverev needed to hold his opening serve in the second set to halt the Wawrinka juggernaut and he rose to the occasion, with his court coverage and groundstrokes raising a level.
It went with serve until game eight when Wawrinka drilled a forehand into the net and Zverev screamed ‘C’mon’ after his first break of the match, serving out for the set.
A resurgent Zverev rammed home his advantage with an early break in the third set before the wily Swiss hit back. But a poorly executed drop shot again handed the 22-year-old another break and he raced to a two sets to one lead.
Wawrinka, who beat Rafael Nadal in the 2014 Melbourne final, was out of fight and Zverev had him dancing to his tune as he raced to victory, ending the popular Swiss star’s bid for a first Slam semi since Roland Garros in 2017.


Big win for Chelsea as VAR calls take center stage again

Updated 22 February 2020

Big win for Chelsea as VAR calls take center stage again

  • Sheffield United miss chance to boost their case for Champions League football next season

LONDON: Chelsea manager Frank Lampard made all the right decisions to mastermind another win over Jose Mourinho and strike a significant blow in the bunched race for Champions League qualification.

It was a couple of decisions by video assistant referees which caused the biggest fuss in the English Premier League on Saturday, however.

Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso — handed rare starts by Lampard — scored the goals in a 2-1 victory over Tottenham, allowing Chelsea to pull clear again in fourth place after the team’s poor recent run.

It was Tottenham manager Mourinho’s second loss to former club Chelsea this season.

Much of the talk during and after the game was about a call by VAR not to send off Tottenham midfielder Giovani Lo Celso for an apparent stamp on Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta in the second half that looked worse on each replay.  The Premier League later said it should have been a red card.

Then, over at Turf Moor, relegation-threatened Bournemouth was denied an equalizer against Burnley when VAR chose to rule out Harry Wilson’s goal because it judged there was a handball in the Bournemouth area 15 seconds earlier.

Bournemouth’s players and manager, Eddie Howe, were livid — the team had already had a goal disallowed for a ball hitting the shoulder of one of its players in the buildup — and Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez piled on their misery by converting the penalty on the way to a 3-0 win.

VAR was introduced to the Premier League for the first time this season and fans are growing increasingly frustrated at its impact on the game.

Aston Villa stayed one point above the relegation zone after losing 2-0 at Southampton, and Crystal Palace eased any relegation concerns by beating Newcastle 1-0.

Sheffield United had to settle for drawing with Brighton 1-1 on its return to English Premier League action, missing the chance to climb into the Champions League qualification positions on Saturday.

The Blades spent their winter break in Dubai, while their top-five rivals failed to make any notable headway in their absence.

United was on its way to matching fourth-placed Chelsea’s win against Tottenham earlier in the day when Enda Stevens blasted the hosts in front in the 26th minute. However, Neal Maupay equalized four minutes later to earn a point that pushed Brighton further clear of the relegation zone, though Graham Potter’s side is without a league win in seven matches.

United was dominant in the second half, with Brighton goalkeeper Mathew Ryan making a point-blank save to deny Oliver McBurnie near the end.

The draw kept the Blades in sixth place, although they were tied on points with fifth-placed Tottenham. Both are four points adrift of Chelsea.

However, fifth place is enough to qualify for the Champions League because second-placed Manchester City was punished last week with a two-year ban from European competitions for breaching financial regulations. City has said it will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.