Not only was Carlos Alcaraz knocked out of the Australian Open in stunning fashion by sixth seed Alexander Zverev on Wednesday night, but a stunning image has revealed he had to endure a drug test immediately after stepping off the court.
The Wimbledon champion had been in excellent form in Melbourne and threatened a comeback after a slow start, but Zverev moved through to the last four thanks to a 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, victory clinched at 1.19am local time.
After the match, a gutted Alcaraz was spotted at his post-match press conference with a bandage on his left arm, clearly as the result of a blood test.
‘Can’t remember a player having a clear mark like this of a doping blood test in a post match interview,’ tennis journalist Jose Morgado tweeted.
‘Wow this is a first,’ replied fellow sports reporter Atinuke Esan.
Carlos Alcaraz was spotted at his post-match press conference with a bandage on his arm in a clear indication he’d had to submit to a drug test minutes after his Aussie Open loss
Tennis reporters expressed shock at the strict anti-doping measures in place for players (pictured, Alcaraz during the defeat by Alexander Zverev)
Doping tests are not unusual for elite players, but are not always welcome so close to match time.
Novak Djokovic was furious at having to do an unexpected drug test just 90 minutes prior to taking the court against Great Britain in the 2023 Davis Cup quarter final.
‘I didn’t believe that they could make such a decision, in 20 and more years of my career, it never happened to me that an hour and a half before the match, I needed to go for doping control,’ he told Serbian media.
‘I have my own routine. I don’t need that distraction, to have my urine and blood taken, to think about whether I can give urine at that moment.
‘I didn’t see any reason or logic, but I hope they change such decisions. It’s a shame what they did. They told me that one of the important reasons for that decision was that it would end late, so that they would give us more time to rest.
‘I support testing myself or anyone – a hundred times, no problem, but not before the match.’
Tennis has stepped up its anti-doping measures in recent years – although there was a hiatus during the pandemic – and WADA tests come in addition to those carried out by the International Tennis Integrity Agency, which has developed a biological passport system.
Alcaraz was heavily fancied to make it an all top-four semi-final line-up but he looked very tight at the start of the clach and Zverev took full advantage, barely missing a first serve and striking his groundstrokes with power and precision.
Alcaraz entered the match favoured to beat Zverev, but things didn’t go his way
Zverev and Daniil Medvedev will duel for a spot in the Australian Open final on Sunday
The German had faced a lot of off-court scrutiny regarding his forthcoming domestic abuse trial – he denies the allegations – but his ability as a tennis player was unquestionable.
Alcaraz improved at the start of the second set, finding some of the dynamic, all-court play that has made him such a fan favourite, but he could not take either of two break points in the sixth game.
He then found himself under more pressure in the following game and, after being given a time violation, he netted a forehand to drop serve again.
Alcaraz, who had comfortably beaten Zverev at the same stage of the US Open last summer, looked furious with himself but he could not conjure up any response as errors continued to flow from his racket.
The end seemed nigh when Zverev, who lost his only grand slam final to Dominic Thiem at the US Open in 2020, broke serve again to lead 3-1 in the third set.
But Alcaraz roused himself just in time to break the Zverev serve for the first time at 5-3 and then reeled off a string of seven absurd points to win the tie-break and take it to a fourth set.
The German received treatment for blisters on his foot and Alcaraz seemed to have the momentum but more errors helped Zverev break to lead 5-4 and this time he managed to serve it out, securing his first victory over a top-five opponent at a slam.
‘When you’re up 6-1 6-3 5-2, you start thinking,’ said Zverev. ‘It’s not always helpful but I’m happy I got there in the end. I fought back quite well in the fourth set.’