It was the latest finish ever at the US Open, played in a city that purportedly never sleeps, but Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner made it well worth staying up into the wee hours.In one of the best (and longest) grand slam matches ever contested here, Alcaraz, a 19-year-old Spanish prodigy, fought off a match point in the fourth set to defeat Sinner, a 21-year-old Italian prodigy, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the semi-finals.
“I always say you have to believe in yourself all the time, and that hope is the last thing you lose,” Alcaraz said in an on-court interview early on Thursday morning.“I just believed in myself and believed in my game.Honestly, I still don’t know how I did it.The level that I played, the level of the match, the high quality of tennis.It’s unbelievable.”
The Spanish teenager collapsed on his back after the match, lasting five hours and 15 minutes, concluded at 2.50am (12.20pm IST), beating the previous record for the latest finish of 2.26am set in three matches in 1993, 2012 and 2014.
The match was the second longest ever played at the US Open, behind only the 1992 semi-final between Stefan Edberg and Michael Chang (five hours and 26 minutes).Alcaraz, seeded third, and Sinner, seeded 11th, have long been considered the future of tennis.But they looked much more like the present after the match started.
But only Alcaraz, an acrobatic speedster from Murcia, will have a chance to make his big breakthrough at this unusually wide-open tournament.
He will face Frances Tiafoe of the US on Friday in what will be the first grand slam semi-final for both menIn the other semi-final, Casper Ruud of Norway will face Karen Khachanov of Russia.
None of them have won a major singles title: no dishonour and no surprise in a long-running era that has been dominated by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.After closing out the match with a service winner, Alcaraz tapped his chest and thanked the few thousand fans who stayed until the finish.But it wasn’t too early to look ahead to his next match.
“It’s going to be really, really tough,” Alcaraz said at a news conference later.“Everybody knows the level of Frances.He has beaten Rafael Nadal.
Then (Andrey) Rublev in three setsHe loves the crowd.He loves this court.” Sinner, in his very late night news conference, said: “I was ready for a tough, tough battle.I think this one will hurt for quite a while.” If the match was a preview of the future of men’s tennis, the sport is in good hands.
(Written with inputs from NYTNS & Reuters)