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On a night when Carlos Alcaraz was below his best, the all-conquering Spanish star was good enough in the most important moments to brush aside Alexander Zverev in straight sets and close in on a rare repeat of the US Open. .

Alcaraz committed more unforced errors than the winners, with a first-serve percentage hovering around 50% for most of Wednesday night’s hotly anticipated quarter-final against the former world No. 2. But the 20-year-old converted four of four break points while saving all five he faced to polish the 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win in a chillingly effective two-and-a-half hours. His reward? A Friday night showdown with third-seeded Daniil Medvedev in a delightful semi-final between the last two US Open champions.

“I feel really comfortable playing on this court, in New York,” said Alcaraz, who is trying to become the first consecutive men’s champion at Flushing Meadows since Roger Federer won five in a row from 2004 to 2008. “I feel good physically. I feel quite strong mentally. I think I’m ready to play a great battle against Medvedev in the semi-finals.

12th-seeded Zverev, a 26-year-old German who was two points clear of the championship in New York three years ago, needed more than four and a half hours to get rid of sixth-seeded Jannik Sinner. a grueling fourth-round match that ended at 1:40 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Stayed out of the field to devote an entire day to recovery, Zverev followed an impressive blow for blow with Alcaraz from the first ball, winning the first break points of the first set.

But Zverev missed backhands on both and then saw Alcaraz break immediately afterwards for 5-3. From there, Alcaraz quickly held on to win the opener after 48 minutes.

The top-seeded Spaniard took the upper hand early in the second, converting his next look on a break point with a sharp-angled backhand winner that settled an explosive four-shot exchange. He broke again towards the end of the set for good measure, ripping a forehand winner to cap off a 10-punch exchange that set up the nearly packed crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It was during that second set that Zverev said he suffered an injury that limited his movement and compromised his serve.

Alcaraz ‘ready for a big battle against Medvedev’ after dismissing Zverev |  US Open Tennis 2023
Alexander Zverev says a hamstring injury hampered his ability to serve against Carlos Alcaraz. Photography: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

“In the second set, I felt something in my hamstrings, on the left side,” Zverev said. “I couldn’t push my serve anymore. My serve speed was much lower than other days. Against him especially, I needed a good day of service, otherwise it would have been difficult.

He added: “It bothered me a bit to run, but the biggest problem is pushing my serve. If the serve speed decreases, the percentage decreases, it is very difficult to compete with Carlos.

Zverev took a medical timeout during the set break and showed an admirable fight once play resumed, trading holds with Alcaraz deep in the third. But the reservoir was empty after Monday night’s Pyrrhic triumph and once Alcaraz netted a late-set break with another dazzling forehand, the match was only a handshake away.

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It’s been a few years for Alcaraz – the youngest No. 1 seed in a US Open men’s draw – since winning his first major title last year in New York and becoming the youngest player to rise to No. 1 in the world, a role he will hand over to Novak Djokovic after this week. He won a record 57 of 63 matches that season and racked up six more titles, including a second career major at Wimbledon. His record for Grand Slam matches dating back to the start of the US Open last year? Twenty-four wins against a single defeat.

“I’ve grown a lot since last year,” Alcaraz said. “Last year, I faced my first semi-final of a grand slam. Now I’m facing my fourth. I feel like a totally different player. It doesn’t matter that last year I had my first Grand Slam, I won my first semi-final, Grand Slam final. I feel like I’m more mature. I handle the pressure better in times like this. I feel like I’m different, a different person and a different player.

Earlier in Wednesday night’s session, Madison Keys beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-4 to reach the US Open semifinals for the first time since 2018.

The 28-year-old from Illinois, seeded 17th in the women’s draw, saved all nine break points she faced to keep alive the prospect of an All-American final on Saturday against Coco Gauff – the sixth seed is set to face Karolina Muchova. in the last four Thursday nights.

Alcaraz ‘ready for a big battle against Medvedev’ after dismissing Zverev |  US Open Tennis 2023
Madison Keys has gone unnoticed but the 2017 US Open finalist remains a threat to Aryna Sabalenka. Photograph: Larry Marano/UPI/Shutterstock

Keys saved a break point with a clean backhand in an opener that was suspended for nearly 10 minutes when a spectator required medical attention. The USTA said in a statement that it had been determined that the supporter suffered from a previous health condition and that the incident was unrelated to the sweltering conditions which became one of the most prominent scenarios of the tournament.

Vondrousova, who won her first major title at Wimbledon in July, was broken in her first two service games and played quietly in the opener, clearly hampered by an arm ailment that saw her withdraw from the double after his victory in three sets against Peyton. Stearns in the round of 16.

The No.9 seed raised her level in the second set but failed to convert five more break chances before suffering the decisive break in the ninth game.

Keys, whose appearance in the 2017 US Open final remains his career-best showing at a major tournament, has gone largely unnoticed over the past week and a half thanks to the inordinate media attention on Gauff. Not anymore. But the American will no doubt rely on that strong home support on Thursday when she takes on second seed Aryna Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion who is set to inherit the world rankings next week.

“I love it here,” Keys said. “I love playing here. In front of a local audience, you can never feel like you can’t get out of any situation.