NEW YORK: Carlos Alcaraz saved a match point in the fourth set before digging deep in the decider to beat Jannik Sinner in a five-set thriller and reach the US Open semi-finals on Thursday in the latest ever finish in the tournament’s 141-year history.

The Spanish teenager collapsed on his back after the match lasting more than five hours concluded at 2:50 a.m., beating the previous record for the latest finish of 2:26 a.m. set in three matches in 1993, 2012 and 2014.

The 6-3, 6-7(7-9), 6-7 (7-0), 7-5, 6-3 win keeps alive Alcaraz’s hopes of winning a maiden Grand Slam title and claiming the world number one ranking after advancing to a last-four showdown with Frances Tiafoe of the United States on Friday.

“Honestly I still don’t know how I did it,” Alcaraz said in an on-court interview. “The level that I played, the level of the match, the high quality of tennis. It’s unbelievable.”

Alcaraz put his finger to his ear in the fifth set after he raced across court to catch up with a Sinner drop shot and fired it past the Italian to set up break point, bringing fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium to their feet.

Alcaraz converted on the next point when Sinner’s shot hit the net for a 5-3 lead and then fired a serve into Sinner’s body on match point to end the five hour, 15 minutes contest.

Tiafoe reached his first Grand Slam semi-final by seeing off Andrey Rublev 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-0), 6-4 to move within two wins of becoming the first African-American man in 54 years to win the US Open.

Not since Andy Roddick in 2003 has a US man won the title at Flushing Meadows and the pressure was on for the 24-year-old to build on his stunning win over second seed Rafa Nadal in the fourth round.

He did not disappoint, launching 18 aces and 46 winners in a dominant performance, injecting new excitement among the home crowd after 23-times Grand Slam winner Serena Williams bowed out following what is expected to be her final appearance in the third round.

“I felt way comfortable coming out today than when I was playing Rafa,” Tiafoe said. “Today I felt really comfortable and it showed in my performance.”

Rublev put up a fight for two sets but his game unravelled as Tiafoe stormed through the second set tiebreak, shouting out in anger and whacking his racket after an ace from the American flew past him.

The Russian bit down on a tennis ball and sat with his face buried in a towel after Tiafoe triumphed in a 16-shot rally to get the only break of the match in the seventh game of the third set.

Tiafoe sealed it with an ace to become the first Black American man to reach a US Open semi-final since Arthur Ashe 50 years ago, playing in the stadium named after the late former champion.

SWIATEK TO FACE SABALENKA

Earlier, Iga Swiatek reached her third Grand Slam semi-final of 2022 on Wednesday and first at the US Open with an error-strewn triumph over Jessica Pegula, the last remaining American woman in the tournament.

French Open champion Swiatek claimed a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) win, her third against Pegula this year.

In the semi-finals, the 21-year-old Pole will face Aryna Sabalenka who she has also got the better of on three occasions this season.

World number six Sabalenka made the last-four for a second successive year with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) victory over former finalist Karolina Pliskova.

Swiatek came through a mistake-plagued quarter-final which featured 13 breaks of serve and a combined 61 unforced errors. “It means a lot to be in the semi-finals for the first time,” said Swiatek.

Sabalenka reached the semi-finals for a second successive year, fired up by the lingering and bitter aftertaste of her Wimbledon ban.

Russian and Belarusian players, such as world number six Sabalenka, were prevented from competing at the All England Club due to the invasion of Ukraine. The ban deprived Belarus’s Sabalenka of the opportunity to improve on her semi-final run in 2021.

“They took away one opportunity from me, so I worked really hard for this one,” said Sabalenka.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2022

Categorized in: