Carlos Alcaraz is one win away from a maiden grand slam title – and the world No 1 ranking – after outlasting Frances Tiafoe of the United States in a sensational five-set US Open semi-final on Friday night.
The 19-year-old Spaniard and sentient highlight reel, whose sublime shotmaking and relentless hustle have tabbed him as the new face of the sport, came from behind in a 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3 thriller to book a place in Sunday’s final opposite fifth-seeded Casper Ruud, who battled past Karen Khachanov in the day’s first semi-final.
Up against a homestanding opponent brimming with confidence and the rowdy audience of nearly 24,000 spectators almost entirely in the American’s corner, Alvarez delivered in one pressure moment after another, further building on his reputation as the best teenager in men’s tennis since Rafael Nadal nearly two decades ago.
For more than four hours Alcaraz and Tiafoe traded hellfire in physical baseline rallies and tested their ample all-court movement to the limit in dazzling cat-and-mouse exchanges. But it was Alcaraz, the No 3 seed whose previous two matches spanned nearly 10 hours and each finished well after 2am local time, who delivered the finishing kick of a champion by winning four of the last five games after holding match point in the fourth.
Tiafoe, a 24-year-old from Hyattsville, Maryland, was the first American man to reach the US Open semi-finals since Andy Roddick in 2006 and was bidding to become the first Black American man to reach a major final since MaliVai Washington at Wimbledon in 1996.
“I gave it everything I have tonight and I gave it everything I had for the last two weeks,” an emotional Tiafoe said afterward. “I’m going to come back and I will win this thing one day.”
Alcaraz, who was the youngest men’s grand slam semi-finalist since Nadal at the 2005 French Open, becomes only the second teenager to reach a US Open men’s final in the professional era after Pete Sampras in 1990.