Alcaraz breaks new ground at Australian Open, Zheng advances

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Second seed Carlos Alcaraz led a group of players sealing berths in the Australian Open fourth round for the first time on Saturday as the second seed enjoyed a short outing that finished when his Chinese opponent Shang Junchen pulled up injured.

Four-times Grand Slam champion Iga Swiatek continues her quest for a first Melbourne Park title when the top-seeded Pole plays Czech Linda Noskova later on Rod Laver Arena, before sixth seed Alexander Zverev takes on American Alex Michelsen.

Daniil Medvedev will look to make short work of Felix Auger-Aliassime in the penultimate match on Margaret Court Arena after the third seed needed nearly 4-1/2 hours to beat Emil Ruusuvuori in a match that concluded in the early hours of Friday.

Alcaraz showed him how it is done, easing through two sets against Shang 6-1 6-1 before his ailing 18-year-old opponent threw in the towel while trailing 1-0 in the third.

“This isn’t the way anyone wants to move on,” said the 20-year-old Spaniard, who takes on Miomir Kecmanovic next after the Serb beat 2023 semi-finalist Tommy Paul 6-4 3-6 2-6 7-6(7) 6-0.

“I want to wish him a speedy recovery. He’s an amazing player. I was looking forward to this match. Unfortunately he wasn’t in the best shape possible.”

While Shang fell short in his bid to become the first Chinese man to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam in the Open era, the country will have a women’s singles player in the second week as 12th seed Zheng Qinwen beat Wang Yafan.

Zheng, who was named the WTA Tour’s most improved player in the 2023 season after winning Asian Games gold and the Zhengzhou title, held off her plucky compatriot 6-4 2-6 7-6(8).

The 21-year-old will no doubt be inspired by memories of Li Na’s triumphant campaign in 2014.

“I watched that final 10 times,” said Zheng. “Unbelievable player, the first Asian woman who won a Grand Slam, how can you not remember that?”

Zheng, who reached the quarter-finals of the US Open last year, next plays Oceane Dodin after she prevailed in an all-French third-round duel with Clara Burel 6-2 6-4.