No Slow-Down For Sascha

German bidding to win first major in Melbourne

The Alexander Zverev juggernaut continued at pace as he defeated a spirited qualifier Radu Albot 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the Australian Open third round on Friday.

The pair’s only previous meeting was a Zverev victory in a five-set first-round epic at the 2019 US Open, but the World No. 3 used his biggest weapons to good effect to ensure there was no repeat of that marathon. The German hit 16 aces and won 83 per cent (57/69) of points behind his first serve to brush past the World No. 124 in one hour and 57 minutes on John Cain Arena, a venue he has grown fond of.

“It’s amazing, this is probably my favourite court [in Melbourne], because I’ve never lost a match here and I hope it continues this way,” Zverev said. “The support has been incredible, it’s really fun to play in front of all you guys again, and hopefully it will be another good four matches for me.”

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Zverev had flown through the opening two rounds in Melbourne, beating both Daniel Altmaier and John Millman in straight sets, and he picked up where he left off by breaking Albot in the second game to race into a 3-0 lead. The thirty-two-year-old Moldovan settled into the match from then on, but it was already too late to save the first set as Zverev dropped just one point behind his first serve to take it 6-3.

Any minor loss of focus from Zverev was immediately rectified, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion saving all five break points he faced. Albot had equalled his best Grand Slam performance by reaching the third round with opening wins over Yoshihito Nishioka and Aleksandar Vukic, but he was given little room for manoeuvre at big moments as the third seed ended with 44 winners to Albot’s 14.

Zverev showed some frustration when he was unable to break from 15-40 at 3-3 in the third, but he had another chance in Albot’s next service game and he made no mistake before serving out for victory.

“He’s obviously playing well, feeling the ball well, so I’m happy to be through in three sets,” Zverev added. “Of course, I had my struggles on the court today, I didn’t feel perfect, but who is perfect? At the end of the day, I won and I’m happy about that.”

The German’s fourth-round match will be a first Grand Slam meeting with 14th seed Denis Shapovalov, who beat American Reilly Opelka 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 earlier on Friday. Zverev leads the Canadian 4-2 in their ATP Head2Head series but is well-aware of the threat the 22-year-old poses.

“He’s playing well,” said Zverev. “I think his match today was a very high level. We’re both going to be happy to be in the second week. Hopefully I can win of course, but it’s going to be a great match.”

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