In what is already turning out to be a remarkable career, 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz has powered his way into the semi-finals of the US Open – his first at a major – with an incredible 6-3 6-7(9) 7-6(0) 7-5 6-3 victory over Jannik Sinner.
The energy I received on this court at 3 a.m., it was unbelievable, Carlos Alcaraz
It was Alcaraz’s second consecutive marathon following his quarter final five-set victory over former champion Marin Cilic which took three-hours and 15-minutes to complete and become, at the time, the second latest-ever ending match at Flushing Meadows by finishing at 2.26 am.
That match has now been relegated to third as it was 2.50 am when Alcaraz finally shook hands with Sinner following his five-hour and 15-minute quarter final marathon, also now the second longest match in US Open history.
Alcaraz is certainly living up to all the hype which has surrounded him since he broke into the limelight by winning the NextGen title in 2021 and entered the top 50.
He has not looked back since that moment reaching the last eight at Flushing that same year and going one stage further at his second attempt this season.
“I still don’t know how I did it. The level I played of high-quality tennis. It’s unbelievable,” Alcaraz said on also becoming the youngest male semi-finalist at a Grand Slam semi-final since Rafael Nadal at the 2005 French Open and Pete Sampras at the 1990 edition of the US Open.
“I always say you have to believe in yourself all the time. Hope is the last thing you use. I believed in myself, my game,” Alcaraz resplied when asked how he had managed to turn the match around, staving off a series of match-points in the fourth set and then recovering from a break down in the deciding fifth.
Awaiting Alcaraz in the last four for a place in the final is America’s new big hope Frances Tiafoe who took out Andrey Rublev, a Moscow resident, ns straight sets earlier in the day; in fact, some 10 hours before that last quarter final was completed.
Following his win, Tiafoe jokingly hoped that the Alcaraz Sinner contest would be a marathon and that they would tire each other out before facing him on Friday!
He certainly got his wish but whether the effort will slow the teenager down seems unlikely for he seems indefatigable.
Alcaraz now has a chance to become world No. 1 if he makes the final so there is plenty at stake for the youngster.
Ironically perhaps, but Sinner despite being seeded ninth to his rivals third, was favourite to go through having beaten Alcaraz in their previous two meetings this season.
But on this occasion he ran into a very aggressive Alcaraz as his rival quickly broke the 21-yer-old Italian in the opening game of the match and though he levelled for 2-2, two more breaks earned Alcaraz the set.
In the second set both players raised their games as the pair who will no doubt be dominating the game in future years, locked horns with Sinner, following an excellent rally gaining the advantage in the sixth game and holding to love to lead 5-3.
Alcaraz broke back, helped by some superb defensive work and a stinging backhand winner down the line which he followed up by raising three set points on the Sinner serve only failing to convert them.
Sinner fended off another set point in the tie-break and eventually snatched it to level the match.
The dynamic duo twice traded breaks as they slugged it out in the third before going to a tie-break, which Sinner this time raced through without dropping a point to pull head in the match by two sets to one.
With the momentum very much in his corner, Sinner looked in control to roll through after breaking Alcaraz to open the fourth set.
But then at 5-3, and the match withing his grasp, Sinner faltered missing match points on his serve by sending a backhand wide and then pushing a drive volley wide to concede his serve.
Alcaraz needed little encouragement to hold serve and level and then break Sinner and go on and level the match.
Sinner snatched back the momentum in the decider when he broke for a 3-2 lead but again, Alcaraz responded with an immediate break back which must have finally broken his rival’s spirit for he didn’t win another game as Spain’s latest young hero, strode confidently into the last four by scoring a famous victory.
“I had some tough losses, for sure,” said Sinner later. “This is in the top list. I think this one will hurt for quite a while.”
Meanwhile Alcaraz acknowledged the part the faithful crowd played as they hung in there watching the incredible battle.
“The energy I received on this court at 3 a.m., it was unbelievable,” Alcaraz said in his post-match press conference. “Probably in other tournaments, other places, everybody [would go] to their house to rest. But they [stayed] on the court, supporting me. It was unbelievable.
“I feel great to be in my first semi-final in a Grand Slam. I feel better reaching the semi-final here at the US Open. This tournament is amazing. The crowd is amazing, I would say the best in the world.”
They may well be but when he faces Tiafoe on Friday, the partisan New Yorkers might well favour the American.
The other semi-final is between the fifth seed Casper Ruud from Norway and the 27th seed Karen Khachanov, another Moscow resident.
Like Alcaraz, Ruud also needs to reach the final to become World No.1 so whichever one falls in their semi, the other will be guaranteed the top ranking spot if successful. Should neither progress, Rafa Nadal, despite his quarter final loss, will regain the No.1 slot he last filled in August 2008.
Ideally it should be a final shoot-out between Alcaraz and Ruud!