AO 2024 – Day 9: Zheng shining after Na advice

The likes of Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev also maintained their momentum at Melbourne Park.

Qinwen Zheng / Huitièmes de finale Open d'Australie 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The quarter-finals roster have been completed on an absorbing Monday at Australian Open 2024.

As ever, Melbourne Park was packed to witness the world's best players wield their racket, as surprise packages and plenty of usual suspects clinched victory. Here are the key headlines…

Qinwen keeps hitting the right notes

A huge fan of singing in karaoke, Zheng Qinwen continued her Australian Open title tilt by producing a pitch perfect performance.

The world No.15, the highest ranked player left in the top half of the women's draw, needed just 59 minutes to overpower Oceane Dodin 6-0, 6-3. Energetic movement, piercing returns, a rocket forehand, Zheng is proving why she is one of the most exciting prospects on tour.

Despite the spotlight, the 21-year-old is able to keep clear-headed.

"You never know what happens in tennis, right? Basically you just focus on the opponent in front of you. Doesn't matter how the other do," said Zheng, reflecting on the numerous shocks in the women's draw.

"You need to play seven matches to be able to get to the finals. That's how it is… I think the people who arrive to quarter-final, for sure they're all feeling really well in this tournament. They're all going to give their best. I just can play my tennis and let's see what can happen."

Zheng shot to prominence on Roland-Garros debut in 2022, venturing into the fourth round, before falling in three sets to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.

The Chinese prodigy also featured in the US Open quarter-finals last September, only to be denied by world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka.

On the cusp of a major breakout, Zheng has taken advice from her compatriot Li Na in Melbourne, who lifted this very title 10 years ago on Rod Laver Arena.

"Li Na told me, 'Just play. Don't think too much.' Yeah, keep it simple. I just try to tell myself focus on the moment."

Two years ago Anna Kalinskaya ousted Zheng in three sets over in Guadalajara, Mexico. Time for a rematch. The world no.75 broke new ground in Grand Slam play with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Jasmine Paolini.

Golden opportunity in top half

Linda Noskova advanced to her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final in unfortunate circumstances, with Elina Svitolina forced to retire 3-0 down due to a back injury.

The 19-year-old Czech, who took down world No.1 Iga Swiatek in a three-set thriller in third round, will face qualifier Dayana Yastremska in the Elite 8.

The Ukrainian has been dubbed the 'seed slayer' on social media, dispatching Wimbledon champion and No.7 seed Marketa Vondrousova, 27th seed Emma Navarro and now 18th seed Victoria Azarenka en route to the quarter-finals.

Yastremska, the first women's qualifier to reach the Last Eight in Melbourne since Zhang Shuai in 2016, posted a stunning 7-6(6), 6-4 upset over two-time champion Azarenka. However, the world No.93 is far from finished.

“It’s not feeling like I'm in quarter-finals, has to be so special, but it feels that I've just done a small part of what I had to do,” insisted the rejuvenated qualifier.

“I had experience already in playing in a Grand Slam, but I couldn't play great or show good results. It's just because something was inside me, the pressure and stuff. Nothing changed, I just relaxed."

Alcaraz pushing to the limit

World No.2 Carlos Alcaraz made sure he remained in the mix for his third Grand Slam triumph with an exhilarating display on Rod Laver Arena.

Back at Miami 2022, the Spaniard was taken to a final set tie-break with rock-solid Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic. This time the No.2 seed was grinning from cheek to cheek as a result of a 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 scoreboard.

"I did everything perfectly," stated the 20-year-old. "I push him to the limit in every ball, in every point."

In doing so, Alcaraz has completed the set of quarter-finals at the four majors. To go one step further Down Under, the Spaniard will need to navigate past No.6 seed Alexander Zverev.

The towering German, for the second time in three matches, required a fifth set super tie-break to escape with victory. Zverev clinched the vital points to defy Brit Cameron Norrie and will head into his battle with Alcaraz with a 4-3 favourable head-to-head.

"I love playing against Sascha. I think both of us bring high intensity, a high level of tennis," added Alcaraz. "I think for the crowd it's a great match. I will try my 100 per cent to bring my best tennis and let's see what happens."

Top 10 duo roll on

Earlier on Monday, Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz halted the unexpected runs of world No.69 Nuno Borges and wild card Arthur Cazaux.

2021-22 finalist Medvedev keeps rising through the gears this fortnight, chalking up a 6-3, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-1 win over Borges.

"I'm ready. Hopefully I can show it on the tennis court. We can talk forever who is ready, who is favourite. You need to win," said a confident Medvedev, who will need to be wary with a 2-3 record over the net from Hurkacz. 

"Hubi, tough opponent for me for sure. It's tough to return his serve. By number of aces, he was number one. Maybe actually the best server last year. That's going to be the key - I need to stay strong on my serve. Going to prepare well mentally tomorrow."

Hurkacz became the first Polish man ever to achieve a singles quarter-final berth in Melbourne, ending the inspired run of Cazaux 7-6(6), 7-6(3), 6-4.

"Making it to the quarter-finals, it's nice, but obviously we're hungry for more," maintained the No.9 seed. "Definitely proud of my performance and the team performance.

"Daniil is amazing competitor for so many years. He's been at the top. He was No.1 in the world. He won a Grand Slam. It's going to be a fun match."