'Happy' Zverev To Face Unbeaten Rublev For QF Spot
Germany's Alexander Zverev started the season disheveled. He was 0-3 at the inaugural ATP Cup in Brisbane and harboured little confidence. But you wouldn't know by how he finished the first week of the Australian Open on Saturday night.
The 22-year-old routed Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to make the second week Down Under in back-to-back appearances. Zverev hit 34 winners to 22 unforced errors and quickly recovered anytime the 2009 semi-finalist grabbed momentum.
Verdasco broke for a 4-2 lead in the third set as the Margaret Court Arena crowd backed the underdog. But Zverev broke twice more to finish in straight sets.
The seventh seed was taking it to Verdasco, charging forward and showing no signs of nerves. For the second consecutive match, Zverev hit zero double faults. Last year, the German was plagued by service yips and averaged 5.9 double faults a match, second on Tour to only France's Benoit Paire.
“It's so far been a good week for me. As I said, it's going to be a process in every match. It has been getting better. Today was the best match I think I've played so far. I'm happy to be through in straight sets against someone we know can play well on these courts, can beat anybody,” Zverev said.
The two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist has pledged all of his prize money to bushfire relief efforts if he wins his first major championship title this fortnight. Zverev said he feels as if he's playing for others this week, and he's enjoying himself.
“I'm happy outside the court, happy on the court, happy in life. Then I think you play your best,” Zverev said. “I have a pretty calm life right now, which is nice for me. I have all the people that are supporting me, all the people that do their jobs here with me.”
During the first two weeks of the season, Rublev won ATP Tour titles in Doha and Adelaide. Zverev leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-0 and has won all six sets they've played.
“Eleven matches in a row to start the year. I hope I can break that winning streak. But he's been playing amazing, winning both titles back-to-back, making the fourth round here, beating quality players. It's amazing to see him doing the things that he does because I've [been] friends with him since we were 10 years old,” Zverev said.
“He's one of the most hard-hitting players on Tour. Out of every position, he can hit a winner. He improved a lot. I think he improved his serve a lot. He improved his movement a lot, as well.”