Incredible saves, unlikely counterattacks, indefensible returns and even a point gained after hitting with the racket behind the back. Carlos Alcaraz it just didn’t rain inside Arthur Ashe Stadium because the tournament organization closed the retractable roof when the first drops threatened to fall. And yet, the Spaniard, currently number 4 in the world, had to stay on the court for 5:14 am and save a match point against a brilliant Jannik Sinner (21 years old, #13 in the ranking). Alcaraz only triumphed in the fifth set, 6/3, 6/7(9), 6/7(0), 7/5 and 6/3at Latest match in US Open history (2:50am local time)to win a spot in the semifinals of the tournament.
At 19, Alcaraz becomes the youngest semifinalist in a Grand Slam tournament since Rafael Nadalwho also had 19 in 2005. And more than that: by staying alive in the New York tournament, Carlitos continues with chances of taking the lead in the world rankings next week. He will be number 1 if he is champion of the tournament or if he reaches the final since Norwegian Casper Ruud, also in the fight, loses his semi to Russian Karen Khachanov.
Alcaraz’s next opponent in Flushing Meadows will be the American Frances Tiafoe, Rafael Nadal’s tormentor in the round of 16. This Wednesday, in the quarters, Tiafoe eliminated the Russian Andrey Rublev by 7/6(3), 7/6(0) and 6/4. It will be the first time for both of them in the semifinals of a slam and the second direct confrontation between them. The first took place at the ATP 500 in Barcelona last year, on clay, and Tiafoe prevailed by 6/4 and 7/6(2).
How did it happen
Alcaraz and Sinner exchanged service breaks early in the first set, but the game, which seemed to be heading towards balance, soon fell into the control of Alcaraz, who defended better and forced Sinner to risk too much and, consequently, make more mistakes. Thus, the Italian missed the serve twice more and saw Alcaraz make 6/3 without major problems.
The second set was very different. Sinner got a break from the front and took good care of his serve until the ninth game. Serving to close the end, however, he couldn’t resist the opponent’s pressure. Alcaraz not only returned the break and evened the split at 5/5, but also won four set points with Sinner serving at 5/6. The Italian saved three of them with great serves, but he was lucky to see Alcaraz miss a right with the open court. The point would give the set to the Spaniard. Instead, Sinner forced the tie-break and prevailed, saving a fifth set point and closing the set at 7/6(7).
The third set started with Alcaraz in front, but Sinner returned the break and kept the even actions until the 11th game, when Alcaraz pressed and got the break. In the sequence, the Spaniard served to close the set, but it was Sinner who shone and took the reins of the game at that moment. The Italian not only returned the break but also made a perfect tie-break in the sequence, serving well, attacking with returns and without opening arrows for Carlitos’ counterattacks. By 7/6(0), Sinner sealed the set and went 2-1 in the match.
The fourth set started with Alcaraz still uncomfortable with the missed chances, and Sinner took the opportunity to break and go ahead, opening 2/0. As almost always, the Spaniard fought and reacted, returning the break in the sixth game and equaling the partial at 3/3. Sinner, however, did not let the opponent breathe easily. With more aggressive returns, he returned to the attack and broke the Spaniard’s serve again. On the side turn, the TV broadcast showed Alcaraz annoyed, asking his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, where to serve. Meanwhile, the Italian took advantage of the moment to open 5/3 and stay one game away from victory. In the tenth game, however, there was more drama. Sinner made two aces, two double faults, and even had a match point, but squandered it with an unforced error. When he missed another right near the net, he lost the game, leaving the score at 5/5. The moment has changed. Alcaraz gained confidence, raised the crowd, confirmed his serve of zero and, while Sinner continued with problems in the first service, the Spaniard scored another break to close the partial at 7/5 and force the fifth set.
In the decisive part, Sinner took the lead once again, but Alcaraz responded immediately by returning the break. The partial arrived equaled to 3/3, but with the moment in favor of the Spaniard, who served better and continued attacking whenever Sinner didn’t fit the first serve. Carlitos broke the opponent once more to open 5/3 and win the chance to serve for the game. This time, the Spaniard did not waste the chance. It was solid and sealed the invoice.
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