Carlos Alcaraz won an enthralling next-gen battle against Jannik Sinner, reaching his first grand slam semi-final since finishing last at the US Open.
Alcaraz eventually claimed victory 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 at 2.50am. after five hours and 15 minutes of thrilling tennis to set up a clash with the home favourites. Francis Tiafoe on Friday.
It was the second consecutive time Alcaraz played past 2:00 a.m. after his fourth-round win over Marin Cilic ended at 2:23 a.m.
The 19-year-old saved a match in the fourth set and came from a decider collapse against his 21-year-old opponent to prove again why he is expected to dominate the sport.
The Spanish teenager also added another impressive shot to his growing list when he cheekily hit a ball behind his back to set up a cross-court forehand winner in the second set.
Alcaraz could still leave New York as the world number one but, in a tournament that seems to have finally marked a real changing of the guard, this match was proof that men’s tennis need not fear a future without its aging superstars.
The fans who stayed until the end cheered Alcaraz loudly and he said: “I honestly still don’t know how I did it. The level of competition, the high quality of tennis.
“It’s incredible to play today. Jannik Sinner is a great player. I will never get tired of saying that all the wins I have on this amazing pitch are thanks to the support I get.
“I just believed in myself, I believed in my game. I knew it’s very difficult to close a match, I have to stay in the match, try to stay calm.”
Sinner’s spell as the brightest young talent in tennis was quickly cut short by the emergence of Alcaraz, who surged past his rival into the top 10.
But the Italian had come out on top in their two recent meetings, in the fourth round at Wimbledon and then at the ATP tournament in Umag, Croatia.
Sinner made a nervous start, double-faulting three times on the opening serve of the game, and although he quickly fell back, Alcaraz hit his shots with more conviction and deservedly took the first set.
The second was arguably the best of the tournament so far. This time it was Sinner who took an early lead, hitting the flat gave him the initiative and he held his advantage until he served out at 5-4, when Alcaraz broke back.
The Spaniard looked set to take the set when he went 0-40 on Sinner’s next serve only for the Italian to produce some clutch serve when he needed it most.
With Sinner on match point to force a tiebreak and after another excellent serve, Alcaraz hit the shot of the tournament, wrapping his racket around his back to send the ball flying low over the net and then pass his opponent with a winner.
Arthur Ashe fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing, but Alcaraz sent a forehand into the net on set point as Sinner held.
Alcaraz had another chance to take the set in the tiebreak, but Sinner saved it with an ace and then landed a backhand in the corner to level the match.
If Alcaraz was wondering how he hadn’t taken the second set, the same was certainly true of the third, where he twice took a break lead only for Sinner to almost perform miracles with his back against the wall.
After breaking his opponent when serving for 6-5, Sinner won seven straight points to take the tiebreak.
As the clock ticked towards 2am, Sinner was now in the ascendancy and led twice with breaks in the fourth set.
But this time it was Alcaraz who stole a set, saved a match point at 5-4 and won the last four games to force a decider. There Sinner hit first again, but Alcaraz piled on the pressure and clinched the win with an ace.