NEW YORK (AP) — This was a fight that wouldn’t end. It shouldn’t end, one might say. Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, two of the brightest young stars in men’s tennis, traded high-quality shots and countless momentum swings in five sterling sets for 5 hours and 15 minutes until Alcaraz finally won the last point at 2:50 a.m. on Thursday. , the last finish in US Open history.
It was ‘only’ a quarter-final, no trophy at stake, yet it was as much a thriller as this year’s tournament has produced, or, more likely, it will be a tour de force of full sprints and plenty of guts, ending as a 6-3, 6-7 Victory (7 ), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 for the 19-year-old from Spain, No. 3 Alcaraz.
“Honestly,” said Alcaraz, who saved a match point in the fourth set, “I still don’t know how I did it.”
He also used words like “unbelievable” and “amazing.” There is no exaggeration.
“This is going to hurt for quite some time,” said No. 11 Sinner, a 21-year-old from Italy. “But tomorrow, I’m going to wake up — or today, I’m going to wake up — somehow trying to (take away) only the positives.”
Alcaraz reached his first Grand Slam semifinal and is the youngest man to reach that far at the US Open since Pete Sampras won the title aged 19 in 1990.
Alcaraz has a chance to move up to the No. 1 ranking next week and will face No. 22 Frances Tiafoe of the United States on Friday. The other men’s semifinal on the day is No. 5 Kasper Rudd of Norway vs. No. 27 Karen Khachanov of Russia.
That match began Wednesday afternoon at approximately 9:45 p.m. and easily beat the previous mark for the last US Open finish time, which was 2:26 a.m., by three games.
Alcaraz working overtime in New York: His five-set victory over 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round ended at 2:23 am. of Tuesday.
“I always say you have to believe in yourself all the time,” Alcaraz said. “Hope is the last thing you lose.”
After his far more routine three-set win over Andrei Rublev in a quarterfinal that ended around 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Tiafoe was rather coy when asked about Alcaraz and Sinner.
“I just hope they play a marathon game, a really long game,” Tiafoe said with a smile, “and they’re going to be very tired on Friday.”
That was not only slow, but long: Only a 5-hour, 26-minute match between Stefan Edberg and Michael Chang in 1992 took longer at the US Open.
It was already past 2 a.m. when Coco Gauff, the 18-year-old American who was runner-up at the French Open and bowed out in the US Open quarterfinals on Tuesday, spoke for anyone paying attention to Alcaraz vs. Sinner when she tweeted: “He the race is crazy. I leave at 6am for the airport, but I refuse to sleep and miss this. #Sinner #Alcaraz”
However, even with thousands and thousands of empty seats, there were enough who stayed on hand to make as much noise as a full house at times. Both players swung their racquets or gestured with their hands to encourage the fans to get even louder. And, of course, the fans will oblige.
“It could end in three sets. It could end in four sets. We could finish in five sets,” Sinner said. “We both wanted to win, for sure. We both tried our best.”
It was as back and forth as it could get. The highlights were too numerous to list. Just one: Alcaraz earned a point after extending a rally with a layup his racket behind his back to make contact with the ball. One more: Alcaraz fell on his own back, then sprouted to struggle to hit a backhand that won that point.
After taking the first set, Alcaraz held on for five sets in the second — but Sinner saved them all.
In the third, Alcaraz broke to lead 6-5 and served for the set – but Sinner broke to force a tiebreak which he dominated.
In the fourth, it was Sinner who served for the match at 5-4, even going to a winning point – but Alcaraz broke and finished by pressing what was already a masterpiece in the fifth.
And in the fifth, after another memorable shot – a running backhand passing winner that went right past Sinner’s outstretched arm – to earn a break point and a chance for a 5-3 lead, Alcaraz put a finger to his ear .
He would convert this opportunity and then serve it. When the end came, Alcaraz fell onto his back, chest heaving, and covered his face with his hand.
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