It was the lower profile of the two men’s singles matches on the second Monday night at Australian Open 2020.
The crowd was sparse and the sound of the ball echoed around Melbourne Arena for Alexander Zverev’s straight sets 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory over Andrey Rublev.
Loud cheers could be heard from the fans flocking outside to watch the Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal on big screens and were sometimes more audible than spectators at the Zverev-Rublev clash.
However, one man inside Melbourne Arena was making noise in the grander scheme of the tournament – Zverev.
The No. 7 ranked German was clinical in his beating of Rublev, an opponent who is the same age and a long time friend.
“We’ve been close friends since we were 10 years old and it just reminded me of how far we’ve gone together,” Zverev said.
“A lot of juniors, a lot of young kids who dream of playing fourth round of a grand slam against one of his best friends and just reflected on that together.
“I told him we were going to play many more big matches and he’s a great player.
“He’ll continue to rise and I think he’s going to be top 15, top 10 very soon.”
Zverev barely had to raise a sweat.
The 22-year-old has hardly been pushed all tournament, winning all four matches so far in straight sets.
He will head into his first Australian Open quarter final against a weary Stan Wawrinka fresh as a daisy and should be a warm favourite.
Zverev was concerned about his form leading in, but he should not have been.
“I’ve played some great matches against great opponents,” he said.
“This is Andrey’s first loss of the season, he’s won two tournaments already, made it to the fourth round here and playing unbelievable tennis.
“I’m just happy to be playing the way I’m playing because after the ATP Cup, I wasn’t sure if I was going to win matches here to be honest.
“It’s all going well and I hope it will continue.”
Zverev seemed fairly carefree on court.
The only time he lifted his heart rate was for a let call from the umpire that he felt had not clipped the net.
Rublev, on the other hand, endured a night of frustration, without every seriously boiling over.
He was resigned to the fact that Zverev was too good on this occasion.
Zverev served efficiently, defended superbly to some ferocious ground strokes from Rublev and his trick bag was more expandable than his good friend’s.
Zverev, who is coached by his dad Alexander Snr, entered the season feeling like a settled individual who is ready to return to a top five ranking in 2020.
“My dad is happy, my team is happy, my girlfriend hopefully is happy, everyone is happy and that makes life a lot easier,” he said.
“You play well when you feel well outside the court.
“A lot has changed in the off season.
“I feel like there’s less stress in my life.
“I’m just happy to be here.”
The quarter finals have been set in the men’s and women’s singles.
In the men’s, Tennys Sandgren and Roger Federer will square off tomorrow afternoon with Milos Raonic and defending Novak Djokovic to play the night session. On Wednesday, Wawrinka and Zverev will lock horns and Rafael Nadal will face Dominic Thiem.
In the women’s, Australia’s last hope Ash Barty will face a tough contest with Petra Kvitova tomorrow. That match will follow the morning game between Sofia Kenin and Ons Jabeur. On Wednesday, Anett Kontaveit and Simona Halep will duel, with the other match to be played between Garbine Muguruza and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.