Carlos Alcaraz saved a match point on his way to defeating Hubert Hurkacz and advance, as hoped, into the final of the Cincinnati Masters where he expected to greet Novak Djokovic playing next on the Grandstand Court of the Lindner Family Tennis Centre in the Western & Southern Open sponsored event.
Obviously saving a match point is never easy but with my coach, we were talking about staying positive all the time and to stay there. We knew I was going to have my chances and I tried to take it. Carlos Alcaraz
Alcaraz’s 2-6 7-6(4) 6-3 victory over the Pole was his fourth three setter of the week where he has now spent 15-minutes short of eleven hours on court with the semi-final lasting two-hours and 12-minutes.
The young Spaniard is certainly proving his fitness and is apparently revelling in these lengthy matches, declaring after his latest close shave: “It’s been a really tough tournament, but I’m really happy to win these kind of matches and stay strong mentally; these matches are really good for me. I grow up a lot, thanks to these matches.”
Hurkacz dominated on serve and was in complete control for a set and-a-half until he miss-fired a forehand wide on match point and miss-out on the best win of his career.
Alcaraz didn’t need much encouragement to raise his game, taking full advantage of his second chance to take control and force a tie break where again, he was forced to fight back from 4-2 down before levelling the match and then completing his recovery by sweeping up the decider to beat Hurkacz for a second time in as many weeks.
The victory ensures the 20-year-old will remain at the top of the world rankings heading into the US Open, which starts a week on Monday.
“It was a mental semifinal, I had to stay there,” Alcaraz said on court. “I had a lot of break points, it was really tough. Obviously saving a match point is never easy but with my coach, we were talking about staying positive all the time and to stay there. We knew I was going to have my chances and I tried to take it. Every match against Hubi is really, really tough but I’m really, really happy that I was able to win.”
At the start of the week, Alcaraz had revealed his hope that he could face Djokovic again and that wish was granted a few hours later when the Serb completed his semi-final by defeating Alexander Zverev 7-6(5) 7-5 in what was his toughest match of the week.
The world No.2 couldn’t break through the Zverev in the first set, but having collected it on a tie-break, he seemingly gained overall control when he broke the German in the second.
But Zverev was quick to respond and Djokovic had to break for a second time and, as he was serving out, a fireworks display from a neighbouring festival completely distracted him but he was able to retain his focus to finish it off after two-hours and four-minutes, the longest time he has spent on court all week.
“In very few of his service games where I had chances, I think I played well, particularly 5-all, he broke my serve to stay in the match,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview. “I managed to bounce back, played a great game to break him again and seal the deal in the 12th game of the second set.
“I’m pleased. I think there’s a few things I could’ve done better, but overall it’s a straight sets win against a great player in form, so I’m really happy.”
His final comment though, said it all: “A final with the world number one and two facing each other is I guess what everyone wanted — so here we are.”
Certainly all eyes will be focused on their first match since Alcaraz took the Wimbledon title off him last month.