NEW YORK — Carlos Alcaraz and Frances Tiafoe delivered a high-profile, high-energy spectacle of a back-and-forth semifinal at the US Open — no point over when it seemed, no ball out of reach, no angle too daring.
A sequence was so full of “What?! How?!” Moments from both men that the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium were on their feet before it was over and stayed there, clapping and carousing during a replay on the video screens.
In the end, enough winners went Alcaraz’ way and too many of the mistakes came from Tiafoe’s racquet. And so it was Alcaraz who stormed into his maiden Grand Slam final – while giving himself a chance to become No. 1 at the age of 19 – by matching Tiafoe’s run at Flushing Meadows with a 6-7 (6th place). ) ended. , 6-3, 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-3 win on Friday night.
“It was so electrifying. I mean, the tennis definitely lived up to the hype of the game. Incredible hits, scoring points, crazy hits…at crazy times,” Tiafoe said. “Yes, I got angry.”
Alcaraz seemed to take control, winning nine games out of ten at once and could have ended the evening by holding a match point in the fourth set. But Tiafoe, ranked 26th, saved it and was soon screaming, with some colorful language for emphasis, “I’m putting my heart on the line!” Soon after, Tiafoe forced a fifth set by improving to a US Open record 8-0 in the tiebreak.
Still, Alcaraz showed no sign of fatigue despite playing a third straight five, including a quarter-final win spanning 5 hours and 15 minutes that ended at 2:50 on Thursday, the last result in tournament history. He was better when he had to be, winning four of the last five games.
“I’m feeling great right now,” Alcaraz said nearly two hours after defeating Tiafoe, then adding, “I mean, a little bit tired.”
Now No. 3 Alcaraz meets No. 7 Casper Ruud for the championship on Sunday, with so much at stake: the winner will become a Major champion for the first time and top the rankings next week.
“It’s amazing to be able to fight for big things,” said Alcaraz.
Alcaraz and Tiafoe both made their big semi-final debuts and put on exceptionally entertaining performances for just over a set and just over an hour early, then again for the latter part of the fourth and the start of the fifth.
Tiafoe, a 24-year-old from Maryland who eliminated 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, played to a sold-out crowd of more than 23,000, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, and challenged and received often more noise. No wonder he was the first American in 16 years to reach the semifinals at Flushing Meadows.
“I feel like I let you guys down,” Tiafoe said during an unusual opportunity for a game’s loser to address the crowd in an on-court interview. “This hurts. That really, really hurts.”
Alcaraz, who hails from Spain, is popular around the world, widely recognized as the sport’s future star and he is now the youngest US Open finalist of any country since Pete Sampras won the trophy in 1990 at the age of 19.
When Alcaraz took a 2-0 lead in the fourth, the crowd cheered him on with a footballing song of “Olé, Olé, Olé! Carlos!”
“People love to see this guy play, so they got behind him too,” Tiafoe said. “Of course I would have liked to win tonight, but I think tennis won tonight. I think the crowd got what they expected. I just wish I was the one who got the ‘W’.”
Afterwards, Alcaraz spoke first in English, then in Spanish, telling his supporters they helped him fight “every point, every ball” and patting him on the chest as he said this was “for my family, for my team, for me, for all of you.”
There were so many memorable conversations and scenes between Tiafoe and Alcaraz. One arrived in the third game of set number two when Alcaraz saved a break point and continued to hold. A smiling Tiafoe jokingly climbed over the net at Alcaraz’s side as if to shake hands at the end of the game.
If this semi-final actually ended on the spot, no one could have complained about the product. It would take a total of 4 hours and 19 minutes.
Wearing matching shirts – red on the front, white on the back, burgundy on the side – they were evenly matched in every respect for long stretches, including to 6-all in the opening tiebreak.
Alcaraz, who by that point had already saved four set points, offered a fifth by sending a backhand wide and then made it easy for Tiafoe to convert that through a double fault. As the crowd roared, Alcaraz hung his head, went to his sideline seat and banged his racquet on his kit bag.
He regrouped and broke to go up in set number two and a crucial point came as Alcaraz served 5-3 but faced a break point. He snagged a crosscourt forehand winner to nix that chance for Tiafoe, starting a run in which Alcaraz claimed 11 consecutive points and 19 from 22 to own that set and a 4-0 lead in the third.
As with that forehand, Alcaraz often snatches the ball with devotion – and somehow with precision, aiming for the lines and finding them. He won at least three points for the first set with shots that hit the outside edge of the white color with no margin.
After one, Tiafoe went over for a light-hearted exchange with Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open winner and briefly No. 1 himself. But make no mistake: Alcaraz is not a hang-back baseliner. He has a varied all-court game and showed his skills by scoring points with acrobatic volleys, feathered drop shots and perfectly parabolic lo.bs.
Aside from that break in sets two and three and late in the fifth, Tiafoe was also exceptional and had the time of his life throughout.
“I’ll come back,” Tiafoe said, “and I’ll win this thing one day.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/34559302/carlos-alcaraz-races-us-open-final-5-set-win-frances-tiafoe Carlos Alcaraz to play for US Open title, shot at No. 1 ranking after 5-set win over Frances Tiafoe