Carlos Alcaraz is one win away from his first Grand Slam title – and the world’s No. 1 ranking – after defeating American Frances Tiafoe in the US Open semi-finals in five sets on Friday night.
The 19-year-old Spaniard and a conscious highlighting reel, whose impressive shots and stubborn hustle made him see him as the new face of the sport, came from behind at 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3 thriller to book a place in Sunday’s final against fifth seed Kasper Rudd, who Fight Karen Khachanov In the first semi-final today.
Facing a home opponent full of confidence and a sparkling atmosphere at Arthur Ashe’s 24,000-seater stadium almost entirely in the American corner, Alvarez conjured his best tennis in one pressing moment after moment with poise and nerves beyond his years, ending the deepest run. by an American man at the US Open since Andy Roddick reached the 2006 final and has continued to cement his reputation as the best teenager in men’s tennis since Rafael Nadal nearly two decades ago.
For over four hours Alcaraz and Tiafoe traded Hellfire in bodily base gatherings and tested their vast mobility to the limit in dazzling cat-and-mouse exchanges that covered every inch of the playing field. But it was Alcaraz, seeded No. 3, whose previous two matches in this tournament lasted nearly 10 hours and both finished just after 2 a.m. local time, who took the final kick for the champions by winning four of their last five matches after taking the match point in fourth.
The 24-year-old Tiafoe of Hyatsville, Maryland, seeded 22nd, was the first American man to reach the semifinals at home since Roddick and was trying to become the first black American man to reach a major final since Malefie Washington. At Wimbledon in 1996.
“Very good from Carlos tonight,” said Tiafo afterwards, wiping away tears. “I gave him my everything tonight and I gave him my everything for the past two weeks. I came here to win the US Open and I feel like I let everyone down. It really hurts. I will come back and win this thing one day.”
The first set was revealed on equal terms in the opening half hour as the players exchanged powerful ground blows of up to 100mph, building flaring tension with each successive hold. Tiafoe survived the first test in the seventh inning, holding from his double-break point down, and then again in the next serve game, holding a 15-30 with a powerful one-stroke.
Then it was Alcaraz’s turn to duck, only to escape the constraints of 4-5, 30-40 by showing a glimpse of the tactical intelligence and advanced point-building that he’s relied on throughout his season of accomplishments. But after saving a set point to hold at 5-6, and then three more points in the first set tiebreak, Alcaraz finally took out in the fifth set with a double-fault that gave Tiafoe the opening goal and ignited the partisan crowd that included Michelle Obama on the field.
After a booking deal to open the second, Alcaraz faced yet another canal check moment at 30-all, when Tiafoe capped another hyper-movement rally with a winner with a masterful breaking point backhandkick. But Alcaraz quietly shrugged it off with a neat shot from inside the baseline, then continued to hold on after getting the best of a gruesome 17-stroke rally in which both players looked to be hit more than once, a sequence that left Tiafoe unable to contain. He laughed as he sat in his chair when changing.
Alcaraz kept his nerves long enough to earn a long-awaited points break opportunity at 2-3, 30-40. Tiafoe saved it with a powerful shot at 136mph, but the Spaniard grabbed his second chance moments later when Tiafoe crossed a forehand from the baseline. Even with the second set appearing as a loser, the American dug in long enough to make things complicated, battling the kind of mental breakdown against elite players he’s had in recent years.
Splitting the opening sets, both players exited bathroom breaks off the field to their best-of-three match for a place in the final, but Tiafoe’s mental disappointment extended into the night cost him dearly as he was instantly broken in love. To open the third. Alcaraz quietly backed the break with a love fist to extend a 10-point streak, mixing topspin and seasoning inside the rally with greater frequency and wearing Tiafoe mentally and physically with a variety of shots. After breaking two more times to wrap up the third set in a quick 33 minutes without facing a break point, Alcarez pumped his fist toward his chest as silence fell on the crowd.
Tiafoe’s vortex continued in fourth place, slipping into a whirlwind of double faults and unforced errors that left his composure shattered as he lost nine out of 10 matches. Alcaraz pounced on his reluctant opponent, pulling him inside with a heartbeat before punishing him with surgical passes. Had it been a boxing match, the referee might have come forward to take a long and hard look at things. And when Tiafoe was broken in the opener of the group, the match seemed to be all but handshake.
But Tiafoe somehow beat the count. Alcaraz first broke all night in the next game to get his serve back, fell off a break again the next game, then broke again to send the crowd into a deafening roar. After chasing a match point at 4-5 to scrape off a cliff edge, the former First Lady got off her seat on the court and raised her fist as a wall of sound cascaded off the mezzanine. Before long, Tiafoe forced the fifth set and clinched the set by winning his eight tiebreakers from many chances in the tournament, eclipsing Pete Sampras’ previous US Open record of seven of seven.
“It was a tough moment for me, I lost that match [point] That way, I do a drop shot that I can finish with a good forehand that I hit really well,” Alcaraz said. “I thought it was a new match in the fifth set. I have to stay there playing, playing well, playing my game, and believing.”
The crowd was silenced again when the Carraz broke to open the fifth. By then, they should have known better as the relentless Tiafoe who broke again in match four, pumping his fist as he ran back to his chair. But from there the American crashed in the blink of an eye, making a double fault at the triple breaking point. With the match going into its fifth hour, Alcaraz immediately cemented the break with a love fist, then ground Tiafoe away with one high percentage shot after another, squeezing the will of his opponent and the gallery until crossing the finish line at five o’clock to midnight after 4 hours and 19 minutes.
Already the youngest player to reach the men’s Grand Slam semi-finals since Nadal’s breakthrough during the 2005 French Open, Alcaraz became the second teenager to reach the men’s US Open final in the professional era after Pete Sampras in 1990. If he wins Sunday’s final, Alcaraz would become Youngest player ever to reach #1 in the ATP rankings. Tiafoe, whose $1.3 million win to reach the semi-finals and a win over 22-time main champ Nadal along the way, could have little consolation in that bitter aftermath, but couldn’t help but tip his hat.
“He’s one of the best players in the world for sure,” he said. “He’s so small. He hits the ball really hard. I’ve never played a man who moves like him, honestly. I’ve seen him get a lot of balls, but I’ve been shooting some down balls that I’ve been shooting at. He’s getting there. How he’s able to extend points, unbelievable.” .
“He’s a player from hell. It’s going to be a problem for a very long time.”
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