MELBOURNE • A fuming Alexander Zverev crashed out of the Australian Open yesterday, but the fourth seed insisted that he "felt better" after smashing his racket to pieces in frustration.
The German erupted in the second set of a 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) fourth-round humiliation by Canadian 16th seed Milos Raonic, hammering his racket into the ground eight times to leave it a mangled mess.
Last year, he took out his frustration in a similar manner during his Australian Open third-round loss to South Korean Chung Hyeon.
"Yeah, it made me feel better. I was very angry, so I let my anger out," he told reporters.
When asked if he had done it before, he answered in surprise: "You never watched my matches? You should watch my matches."
Zverev had been tipped as a future Grand Slam champion after a breakthrough 2018 that saw him win the ATP Tour Finals, beating Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the process.
Instead, it was a familiar tale of woe as he failed to make the last eight of a Grand Slam for the 14th time in 15 appearances. The only time he has made the quarter-finals was at last year's French Open, where he lost in straight sets to Dominic Thiem.
The world No. 4 broke Raonic's formidable serve at the start of the match but then imploded to lose nine straight games in an error-strewn disaster.
"I mean, I played bad. The first two sets especially I played horrible," added Zverev, who committed eight double faults and 16 unforced errors against eight winners in the first two sets which lasted 63 minutes.
"It's just tough to name one thing (I did well). I didn't serve well, didn't play well from the baseline. Against a quality player like him, it's tough to come back from that."
Raonic said that Zverev's racket-smashing tantrum "didn't have too much of an effect" on him. "I have sort of faced that situation, and I was also ahead at that point, so I was just really focusing on myself."
Djokovic struck back for the old guard, soaking up the pressure from an impressive Daniil Medvedev before crushing the young Russian 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-3 to reach his 10th quarter-final at Melbourne Park.
The night after Roger Federer was stunned by Greek tyro Stefanos Tsitsipas, there was another sniff of an upset at Rod Laver Arena as 22-year-old Medvedev rocked the Serb with a furious assault of power hitting.
Yet the Russian wearied in the constant attrition, and top seed Djokovic ended up passing his biggest test at what had been a sweat-free tournament easily.
The world No. 1 will continue his bid for a hat-trick of Grand Slam titles and a record seventh at Melbourne Park against Japanese eighth seed Kei Nishikori, who squeezed past Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7 (8-10), 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 7-6 (10-8).
"Since I guess my next opponent is watching, I'm feeling fantastic, never felt better in my life," Djokovic, 31, joked in his on-court interview with Jim Courier.
Nishikori, who was dragged into a five-set dogfight for the third time in four rounds, also tried to make light of his on-court struggles.
"I feel like it's not enough," the Japanese joked when reminded that he had spent 13hr 47min on court in the first four rounds.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Day 9: Singtel TV Ch114/115 &
StarHub Ch208/209, 8am & 4pm