The toilet break that sparked a feud between Australian Open semi-finalists

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The toilet break that sparked a feud between Australian Open semi-finalists


A frosty look-away handshake and a toilet break perceived as gamesmanship contributed to the simmering on-court feud between Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev, which is set to resume in the Australian Open semi-finals at Rod Laver Arena on Friday night.

Medvedev won five of the six matches between the pair last year, but Zverev believes he is well-placed to conquer the enigmatic Russian after tipping Spanish prodigy Carlos Alcaraz out of the Open in the quarter-finals on Wednesday night.

Alexander Zverev showed his capabilities by dismantling the highly fancied Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals.Credit: Getty

Zverev, who is set to stand trial on domestic violence charges in May, is aiming to win his first grand slam title at Melbourne Park. He said was still recovering from a gruesome ankle injury – having torn three ligaments during a 2022 Roland Garros semi-final.

Their rivalry is covered in the second series of Netflix’s Break Point docuseries.

In the doco Zverev criticises Medvedev’s on-court tactics, remarking: “I like to win and lose by playing tennis. I’m not somebody that try to do kind of dirty games just to put your opponent off. That’s not how I was taught the game.”

Of the Russian’s 2023 form, Zverev says: “Medvedev is one of the best players in the world. He’s a player that probably has the most confidence out of anybody right now. He’s barely lost a match this year.

Daniil Medvedev has survived some long matches, tough conditions and late finishes to make it through to the semi-final.

Daniil Medvedev has survived some long matches, tough conditions and late finishes to make it through to the semi-final.Credit: Eddie Jim

“But I also think that a lot of things that Medvedev does are frustrating at times. He’s somebody that knows how to play with the head of the opponent. I think there’s always a lot of unfair things happening in the game that he uses quite well to his advantage.”

The feud flared during their match at the Monte Carlo Masters last April, when Zverev took exception to Medvedev leaving the court for a bathroom break. At the time, the German described his opponent as “one of the most unfair players in the world”.

Zverev did not look at Medvedev when they shook hands at the net.

Later the Russian responded: “[What] made him say this? Toilet? Well, I wanted to pee. What does he want me to do?”

Medvedev weighs in on his decade-long rivalry with Zverev in the Netflix doco.

“I don’t think I played against anyone more than against Sascha (Zverev), but we can’t be like best friends. It’s impossible. Too much competition,” Medvedev says.

“He has Olympic games [gold]. I have a grand slam. I do think grand slam is still a bigger title, even if Olympic Games is amazing. We have been rivals for 10 years. So on the court, we want to still win and destroy each other. I’m very competitive. Always want to win always.”

Earlier in this year’s Australian Open, Medvedev criticised his portrayal in the Netflix series, accusing it of exaggeration.

“I saw a little bit here and there…but I haven’t watched it and probably will not because I will probably get frustrated,” he said in a post-match interview.

“People around me, people in the locker room, they know how I am. How I am on court, it can be tricky, but how I am off court, I feel like I have a good relationship with mostly all of the tour. But I don’t have much to add because the series is not real life.”

Netflix has been criticised by fans for not addressing the domestic violence allegations against Zverev in the episode that focuses on him. The streaming service has not responded to questions from this masthead about the omission.

The 26-year-old strenuously denies the allegations.

Journalists, including from this masthead, have questioned whether it was appropriate for him to remain on the ATP player council, which is voted by his peers, with his court case unresolved, but he responded: “Why would it not be?”

Regarding his rivalry with Medvedev, Zverev said after booking in a semi-final berth against the No.3 seed that he was in good physical shape to turn to the tables.

“He has been kicking my arse a lot over the last year or so, but maybe this will be it, this will be the place,” said Zverev, who trails Medvedev 7-11 in their overall head-to-head meetings.

“A lot of matches were extremely close, [and] a lot of the times it came down to him being extremely confident last year, him playing some of the best tennis of his life, and me coming back from injury and not having the confidence in deciding moments and not being able to finish matches,” the German added.

“He’s extremely difficult to play, no question about it. He’s one of the best players in the world right now. But I’m happy in the position I am, and I’m going to do everything I can to win that match on Friday.”

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