The exciting Spanish teenage tennis sensation, Carlos Alcaraz, reached his first major semi-final after an incredible victory over Italian Jannik Sinner, at the US Open, taking place at Flushing Meadows, New York.
In a thrilling battle of the young guns, the 19-year-old Spaniard, seeded at number three for the tournament, saw off his equally promising opponent just two years his senior – and who came into the competition as the number eleven seed – in a marathon match that was astonishingly not completed until ten minutes before three o’clock, in the early hours of Thursday morning.
He had saved a match point before clinching the epic contest 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (0-7) 7-5 6-3, that took in total 5 hours and fifteen minutes. Amazingly, this was the second time in succession that Alcaraz had played beyond 2 a.m, after his fourth-round win over Marin Cilic finished at 2.23am, just days earlier.
New champion guaranteed
He now goes on to face Frances Tiafoe on Friday, for a spot in Sunday’s final, where a new, first-time men’s singles Grand Slam champion is already guaranteed, with Norway’s Casper Ruud and Russia’s Karen Khachanov drawn to compete in the other semi-final, meaning none of the four remaining players have experienced success to such a level.
Alcarez immediate reaction
Alcarez becomes the youngest man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal accomplished the feat at the 2005 French Open. He said after his win: “I still don’t know how I did it. My level of play, the level of this match, the level of Jannik Sinner’s play, who is a truly great player, it was just incredible. I played high quality tennis. It is unbelievable. I would say that it is the best match of my career so far.”
He then thanked the crowd for helping him through the tournament: “ I will never be tired to say that all the wins I have in this amazing court is thanks to the support I receive. I always say you have to believe in yourself all the time. I just believed in myself, believed in my game. I knew to close a match is really difficult against this opponent, I have to stay in the match, try to stay calm. Hope is the last thing you use. I believed in myself, my game and in the end it was what got me through.”
The match was a classic
His next opponent, Tiafoe, had joked after his earlier win, which finished more than 10 hours before the last quarter-final finally ended early on Thursday morning, that he hoped the match between Sinner and Alcaraz would be a “marathon and super-long”. Remarkably his wish came true after an extraordinary night on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The match between two of the sport’s most exciting talents was billed as one of the clashes of the tournament, and those expectations were matched and then surpassed in an absolute classic. Sinner had seen his spell as the bright new star of tennis cut short by his opponent’s emergence, who had swept passed him and into the top ten.
Alcaraz showed his quality, resilience and seemingly endless energy throughout the captivating contest. His game consisted of powerful and precise hitting, coupled with astounding shot selection and making, together with staggering displays of athleticism.
He took the first set in a relatively comfortable manner and then the second proceeded to be arguably the best set of the entire tournament so far. The Spaniard would have been scratching his head at how he had failed to take it and the same would probably have been the case in the third, where he twice led by a break, only for his brilliant Italian counterpart to produce miraculous returns and clinch the set.
As the clock moved past 2 a.m, it seemed Sinner had the upper hand, but Alcarez saved a match point at 5-4 down, and went on to win the final four games, to force a decider. There Italy’s young hope once again struck first, but Alcaraz had the bit between his teeth now, and piled on the pressure, before pulling away to clinch the set and the match, with an ace.
The young starlet collapsed to the court in a mixture of elation, relief, and disbelief, as he sealed victory. He covered his face and breathing heavily, he lay down to fully process what he had just achieved. Then in a show of real sportsmanship, having lifted himself off the surface, he warmly hugged his rival, who had walked around the net to congratulate his exhausted opponent.
His next task is to get past Frances Tiafoe who has been busy creating his own set of headlines during the eventful tournament. The American had stunned Nadal in the previous round, before backing up what he had described as the biggest day of his life, with yet another impressive performance against the eighth seeded Russian, Andrey Rublev, who he saw off with a relatively straight forward 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-0) 6-4 win.
The 24-year-old and 22nd seed said: “This is wild, this is crazy. I had the biggest win of my life 48 hours ago. To back it up, it’s tough to turn the page, but I did, and now I am in the semis, and I feel so at home on courts like this. This court is unbelievable. I always find a way somehow on this court. Let’s enjoy this one, but we have got two more.”
His victory means he is the first black American man to reach the US Open last four since Arthur Ashe did so back in 1972.
Possible new world number one
As a further incentive meanwhile for both Alcaraz and the 23-year-old Ruud, they will also be aware that they have a shot at becoming the new world number one, as the tournament that has been full of surprises, nears its conclusion.