Carlos Alcaraz beats Frances Tiafoe in five-set thriller to reach US Open final

Carlos Alcaraz is one win away from a first Grand Slam title, and world No. 1, after overcoming American Frances Tiafoe in a sensational five-set US Open semi-final on Friday at the night

The 19-year-old Spaniard and sensitive highlight reel, whose sublime shooting and hustle have seen him hailed as the new face of the sport, came from behind in a 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, A 6-7(5), 6-3 thriller to book a place in Sunday’s final against fifth seed Casper Ruud, who battled Karen Khachanov in the first semi-final of day.

In front of a confident home opponent and the crackling atmosphere of almost 24,000 spectators almost entirely in the corner of the American, Alvarez conjured up his best tennis in one pressure moment after another with more poise and nerve beyond his years, ending the deepest career by an American. man at the US Open since Andy Roddick reached the 2006 final and further built on his reputation as the best teenager in men’s tennis since Rafael Nadal nearly two decades ago.

For more than four hours, Alcaraz and Tiafoe traded hellfire in physical grassroots rallies and tested their broad range of motion to the limit in dazzling cat-and-mouse exchanges that covered every inch of the court. But it was Alcaraz, the No. 3 seed, whose previous two matches at this tournament lasted nearly 10 hours and each ended well past 2 a.m. local time, who delivered the final kick of ‘a champion winning four of the last five games after holding match point. the fourth

Tiafoe, a 24-year-old from Hyattsville, Md., seeded 22nd, was the first American man to reach the final of his home slam since Roddick and was looking to become the first black man from North -American to reach a major final since MaliVai Washington at Wimbledon in 1996.

“Too good from Carlos tonight,” Tiafoe said afterward, wiping away tears. “I gave it everything I got tonight and I gave it everything I had for the last two weeks. I came here to win the U.S. Open and I feel like I let everybody down. It hurts a lot. I’ll be back and someday I’m gonna win this thing.”

The first set played out on even terms for the opening half hour as the players traded scorching groundstrokes that reached 100mph, the fiery tension building with each successive take. Tiafoe survived the first test in the seventh game, holding from double break point, then again in the next service game, holding for 15-30 with a crunching ace and backhand volley.

Then it was Alcaraz’s turn to squirm, only to escape a 4-5, 30-40 tie showing a glimpse of the tactical intelligence and sophisticated point construction he has relied on throughout his great season. But after saving a set point to hold on at 5-6, then three more in the first-set tiebreaker, Alcaraz finally broke through in the fifth with a double fault that gave Tiafoe the opener and fired up the partisan crowd which included Michelle Obama on the runway.

After a change of holds to open the second, Alcaraz faced another trying moment at 30 points as Tiafoe capped another hyperkinetic rally with a deft backhand volley winner for break point . But Alcaraz coolly put him away with a cheeky shot from inside the baseline, then held on after getting the best of a blistering 17-run rally where both players looked beaten more than once time, a sequence that left Tiafoe unable to contain. his laugh as he sank into his chair in the shift.

Alcaraz held his nerve long enough to earn a much sought after break chance at 2-3, 30-40. Tiafoe saved him with a 136mph service winner, but the Spaniard blew his second chance moments later when Tiafoe overcooked a baseline forehand. Even with the second set seemingly lost, the American took enough time to make things difficult, battling the kind of mental lapses against elite players that have plagued him in recent years.

After splitting the first two sets, both players emerged from off-court bathroom breaks in a best-of-three match to clinch a place in the final, but Tiafoe’s first extended mental letdown of the night cost him it cost a lot as he immediately fell out of love. to open the third. Alcaraz calmly backed up the break with a love hold to extend a streak of 10 points in a row, mixing topspin and spice inside rallies more often and wearing Tiafoe down with his range of shots. After breaking twice more to close out the third set in a quick 33 minutes without facing a break point, Alcarez pumped his fist towards his box as silence fell over the crowd.

Tiafoe’s spiral continued into the fourth, swept into a whirlwind of double faults and unforced errors that left her composure shattered as she lost nine of 10 games. Alcaraz pounced on his foe, baiting him with drop shots before punishing him with surgical passes. If it was a boxing match, the referee might have stepped forward to take a long, hard look at things. And when Tiafoe was broken in his first service game of the set, the match appeared almost a handshake.

But Tiafoe somehow beat the count. He broke Alcaraz for the first time all night in the next game to return to serve, fell behind a break again in the next game, and then broke once more to send the crowd into deafening roars . After chasing a match point at 4-5 to claw back from the brink, the former First Lady jumped from her courtside seat and pumped her fist as a wall of sound cascaded down from the mezzanine Before long, Tiafoe had forced a decisive fifth set to win his eighth tiebreaker in as many chances at the tournament, eclipsing Pete Sampras’ previous US Open record of seven from seven.

“It was a difficult moment for me, losing that game [point] in this way, making a drop shot that could end with a good forehand that I hit quite well”, said Alcaraz. “I thought it’s a new game in the fifth set. I’ve got to hang in there playing, playing well, playing my game and believing.”

The crowd went silent again when Alcaraz broke through to open the fifth. They should have known better then, as the relentless Tiafoe broke down in the fourth game, fist pumping as he headed for his chair. But from there, the American was broken at love in the blink of an eye, double-faulting on triple break point. As the match entered the fifth hour, Alcaraz consolidated the break immediately with a love hold, and then landed Tiafoe with one high percentage after another, squeezing his opponent’s will and gallery until he crossed the finish line at five after midnight. 4h 19min

Already the youngest men’s Grand Slam semifinalist since Nadal’s 2005 French Open breakthrough, Alcaraz becomes just the second teenager to reach a men’s US Open final in professional era since Pete Sampras in 1990. Should he prevail in Sunday’s final, Alcaraz will become the youngest player in history to reach No. 1 in the ATP world rankings. Tiafoe, whose $1.3 million earnings to reach the semifinals and beat 22-time major champion Nadal along the way offered little consolation after the bitter aftermath, could only tip his hat.

“He’s one of the best players in the world, without a doubt,” he said. “He’s so young. He hits the ball really hard. I’ve never played a guy that moves as well as him, honestly. I’ve seen him catch a lot of balls, but I was hitting some drop volleys that I’ve been hitting. He’s getting there How he is able to expand points, incredible.

“He’s a hell of a player. He’s going to be a problem for a long time.”

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