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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Monday, January 22, 2024

The Happy Slam has felt like a pressure cooker for Alexander Zverev.

Zverev has handled the heat with hard-core competitive fire.

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A focused Zverev won 21 of 25 first-serve points in the final set edging Cameron Norrie 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(3) in a four-hour, five-minute Australian Open fourth-round victory.

It was Zverev's second fifth-set tiebreaker triumph in four tournament wins this week coming two rounds after he out-dueled qualifier Lukas Klein 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(7).

The good news for Zverev: he has been decisive going the distance. Zverev scored his fifth consecutive five-set win, improving to 21-10 in career five-setters.

The bad news for Zverev: he will face far fresher Wimbledon winner Carlos Alcaraz for a semifinal spot.

The second-ranked Alcaraz destroyed Miomir Kecmanovic, who was coming off a five-set win over 2023 semifinalist Tommy Paul, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 roaring into his maiden Australian Open quarterfinal.

Alcaraz has spent about eight hours, 42-minutes on court, while Zverev has toiled nearly five hours longer.

Conceding fatigue could be a factor against the 20-year-old Spaniard, Zverev defiantly declared "I'm not dead."   

"If you play less, you are fresher, but I feel okay. I'm not like the US Open where I was completely dead and where I feel like I'm physically exhausted," Zverev told the media in Melbourne. "I'm tired, for sure, because I played 7-6 in the fifth set again two times out of the last three matches, but I'm not dead.

"I'm not completely exhausted. I'm not in the same physical state I was in the US Open.

"I expect it to be very different, to be honest."

Tennis Express

Alcaraz is gearing up for another shot at the Olympic gold-medal champion.

The sixth-seeded Zverev has won four of seven meetings vs. Alcaraz, including a 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-4 victory at the ATP Finals last November.

However, two-time major champion Alcaraz swept Zverev 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the US Open quarterfinals last September.

"He is a really great player. He has beaten great guys here in this tournament," Alcaraz said of Zverev. "Obviously I love playing against him. It's always a tough battles. I have to play my best level. He push me to play my 100% every time.

"The last time we face each other, I lost. So I have to be focus on that. I have to improve my level from that match. I'm going to enjoy. I'm going to enjoy that match. I'm going to enjoy playing the quarterfinals against him... I think for the crowd it's going to be a great match, as well."

The last time Zverev faced Alcaraz in a major, he was coming off an exhilarating five-set win over Jannik Sinner at the US Open.

The German believes his ferocity can combat fatigue and Alcaraz in their AO rematch.

"I also think that coming out on the Rod Laver Arena at 7 p.m. for a quarterfinal match against the No. 2 player in the world, that gives you energy, as well," Zverev said. "I hope it's going to be a very fun, entertaining match."

Photo credit: Nicolo Campo