Leer en Español
With an extraordinary test of physical and mental overcoming, the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz overturned a match in the fourth set and sealed an epic victory in the fifth set against the Italian Jannik Sinner (6-3, 6-7, 6-7, 7-5, 6-3) to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open, after a battle of five hours and fifteen minutes.
It was two fifty in the morning in New York when Alcaraz knocked down Sinner —the man who eliminated him this year from Wimbledon and denied him the title in Umag— to now meet the American Frances Tiafoe in the first “big” semifinal of his career.
The Arthur Ashe court celebrated Alcaraz after winning the second longest match in the history of the U.S. Open. The longest duel was between the Swede Stefan Edberg and the American Michael Chang, which lasted five hours and 26 minutes in 1992.
The 19-year-old from Murcia is already certain to make the podium of the world ranking and still has the first position within his reach. He will be number one if he wins the title, but he can also be number one if he reaches the final and Norwegian Casper Ruud falls in the semifinals to Russian Karen Khachanov.
“Hope is the last thing you lose,” said Alcaraz in the on-field interview, after starring in one of the feats that define the careers of the greatest champions.
One step away from the abyss
For at 2 a.m. local time, Alcaraz faced a match with Sinner on serve, 5-4 down in the fourth set, after receiving a warning from the umpire for throwing a ball into the third ring of the Arthur Ashe out of frustration, failing to get the key to hurt the Italian.
He looked in frustration at his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero and was seen telling him that he did not know where to place his serves to trouble his opponent.
The Spaniard saw his chances vanish despite an excellent start of the match, where he won the first set by 7-5 and in which, with spectacular strokes, he had achieved, but wasted, up to five set points in the second set.
There was room for spectacular plays, such as a behind-the-back smash followed by a wonderful backhand from Alcaraz that drew a long ovation from the spectators.
It looked like a doomed match for Alcaraz when, in the third set, he squandered a 4-2 lead and the chance to serve for the set at 6-5, surrendering his serve and being swept aside with a 7-0 tiebreaker.
Hours earlier, Frances Tiafoe had also given a 7-0 in the tiebreaker to his rival, the Russian Andrey Rublev, but that was not enough to end the New York path of the player from Murcia.
After losing the third set, when the clock already marked one in the morning, Alcaraz returned to the locker room to try to calm down and regain clarity. However, Sinner continued to take advantage of his tactical plan, solid with his serve and still brilliant with his legs.
However, neither the break suffered at the opening of the fourth set nor the valuable 0-30 wasted with Sinner on serve in the next game could knock Alcaraz.
He managed to hold on and clung to his serve to stay alive. He limited the damage until the break 4-5 down, with Sinner a step away from the semifinals but still with options.
He changed history
The Italian got his first set point but failed to turn it, and a subsequent mistake gave Alcaraz the longed-for break point. After squandering thirteen of 21, he managed to take the blow to re-establish the tie, and it was the spark that renewed Alcaraz’s physical and mental energies. Even Ferrero lost his usual calm to celebrate in style and, in a few minutes, the Spaniard forced the fifth set by winning 7-5.
The tension was high and the fans who decided to stay until after half past two in the morning were rewarded with a new vibrant set, which defied logic and changed the balance at every moment.
Sinner seemed to be down and struggling to serve, but he didn’t give up his serve, but hit first and went 3-2 up on serve. A new, hard blow to Alcaraz, but once again insufficient to leave him KO.
The Spaniard regained the break immediately and chained four consecutive games to shield his ticket to the semifinals with a service winner.
He sentenced the match that ended later in the history of the U.S. Open and became, at 19, the youngest semifinalist of a major since his countryman Rafa Nadal. The latter reached that round, at the same age, at Roland Garros in 2005.
Fight for the number 1 rank
The presence of Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz and Norwegian Casper Ruud in the semifinals of the U.S. Open keeps both players, aged 19 and 23, in the fight for the world number one, a privileged position that virtually belongs to Rafael Nadal (36 years old), despite his elimination in the round of 16.
The ATP ranking that the players’ association updates every Monday will appear at the end of the Open with 5,810 points in Nadal’s record. The Mallorcan can do nothing now but wait to see what his rivals do.
Alcaraz will be number one if he goes through to the final —he would have 5,940 points— and Ruud does not -he would be left with 5,370.
Ruud would be number one in the ranking if he reaches Sunday’s final —5,850 points— and Alcaraz does not -he would remain with the current 5,460.
If Alcaraz and Ruud meet in the final, the number one will go to the Flushing Meadows title winner. The Spaniard would finish with 6,740 points, the Norwegian with 6,650, both above Nadal’s.
If both Alcaraz and Ruud fall in their semifinals on Friday, Nadal will be the leader of the ATP rankings; after a tournament, he reached number 3.
The player from El Palmar would be the youngest number one in history: following Monday, he will be 19 years and 130 days old. He would take the record away from Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who was 20 years and 268 days old.
In the semifinals, Alcaraz will face the American Frances Tiafoe, 24 years old, number 26 of the ATP. They have only crossed their rackets on one occasion, in Barcelona in 2021, with the American winning 6-4, 7-6 (2).
The other semifinal will put face to face for the second time, Casper Ruud and Russian Karen Khachanov (26 years old), seventh and thirty-first in the ranking. In the only precedent, the victory went to the Nordic, in Rome in 2020, by 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.