Alcaraz beats Sinner in epic 3am finish at US Open
|Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 29 August-11 September|
|Coverage: Daily radio commentaries across BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentaries and match reports on the website and app|
Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz reached his first major semi-final after beating Italy’s Jannik Sinner in a US Open thriller which ended at a record latest time of 2.50am in New York.
Alcaraz, 19, saved a match point before clinching an epic 6-3 6-7 (7-9) 6-7 (0-7) 7-5 6-3 win over 11th seed Sinner.
The third seed will face Frances Tiafoe on Friday for a spot in Sunday’s final.
The American, 24, also plays in a first major semi-final after his 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-0) 6-4 win over Andrey Rublev.
“I still don’t know how I did it. The level I played of high quality tennis. It’s unbelievable,” said Alcaraz, who is the youngest man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Rafael Nadal at the 2005 French Open.
“I always say you have to believe in yourself all the time. Hope is the last thing you use. I believed in myself, my game.”
A first-time Grand Slam champion is already guaranteed in the men’s singles at Flushing Meadows, with Norway’s Casper Ruud and Russia’s Karen Khachanov contesting the other semi-final.
Alcaraz and 23-year-old Ruud also have a shot of becoming the new world number one as an intriguing tournament nears a conclusion.
Tiafoe gets his wish for marathon match
Tiafoe joked after his win – which finished more than 10 hours before the last quarter-final finally ended on Thursday morning – he hoped the match between Sinner and Alcaraz would be a “marathon and super-long”.
His wish came true after an extraordinary night on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Alcaraz showed quality, resilience and boundless energy to beat Sinner in a captivating contest.
Full of powerful and precise hitting, incredible shot making and jaw-dropping athleticism, the match between two of the sport’s brightest talents surpassed even the already-lofty expectations.
After missing five set points in the second set, unable to serve out the third and stopping Sinner taking a match point in the fourth, Alcaraz sealed victory after five hours and 15 minutes with his first match point.
The teenager collapsed to the court in elation, covering his face and breathing heavily as he lay down to process what had just happened.
He peeled himself off the surface to share a warm hug with Sinner, who walked around the net to congratulate his opponent.
An exhausting battle ended in front of a healthy number of dedicated fans in the early hours and Alcaraz celebrated wildly with his incredulous supporters, even giving a trainer each to two of them.
How an epic played out
Alcaraz lost to Sinner in the Wimbledon fourth round in July, but started confidently at Flushing Meadows to win a superb first set which offered some signs a classic might unfold.
Sinner fought back in a tense second set which could have swung either way, with fans already leaping to their feet with disbelieving facial expressions at what they were seeing.
That included Alcaraz hitting an audacious behind-the-back shot that led to a winning point in the 12th game and Sinner hitting a brilliant backhand winner to level the match.
Both players saw their first-serve percentage drop in the third set, with the intensity of the battle taking its toll.
Sinner was broken for the second time as Alcaraz led 6-5, but he stopped the Spaniard serving out for a two-sets-to-one lead by somehow staying in an exchange at deuce which switched momentum back in his favour.
After a brilliant tie-break, Sinner looked the more energised and quickly moved a break up in the fourth.
But this match was never going to have an uncomplicated conclusion.
An edgy Sinner could not take the match point as he tried to serve out at 5-4, which led to a revitalised Alcaraz breaking as part of four in a row and teeing up a decider at 2.01am.
Still there was little idea which way the outcome would go. Sinner broke for a 3-2 lead seconds before the match became the latest finish in the tournament’s history, but then did not win another game as Alcaraz turned the match back in his favour.
“I had some tough losses, for sure,” said Sinner. “This is in the top list. I think this one will hurt for quite a while.”
Tiafoe ‘turns the page’ as ‘wild’ journey continues
After stunning 36-year-old Nadal in the previous round, Tiafoe backed up what he called the biggest day of his life with another impressive display against Russian eighth seed Rublev.
The 22nd seed is the first American man to reach the US Open semi-finals since Andy Roddick in 2006.
“This is wild, this is crazy. I had the biggest win of my life 48 hours ago. To back it up, it’s tough to turn the page, but I did, and now I’m in the semis,” said Tiafoe.
“I feel so at home on courts like this. This court is unbelievable.”
Rublev, who has now played in six major quarter-finals without progression, looked the more dangerous in the early stages but missed chances as Tiafoe took control of the first set in the tie-break.
The second set also went all the way on serve, but if cracks were beginning to show in Rublev’s composure, they shattered in the tie-break.
A composed Tiafoe – who has not lost a tie-break so far in the tournament – dominated and Rublev’s anger boiled over as he repeatedly smashed his racquet against his own knee.
The third set brought the first break of serve, leaving Rublev in tears after he allowed Tiafoe to edge ahead for 4-3.
Tiafoe withstood pressure in the eighth game, saving two break points, then served out the match with his 18th ace to become the first black American man to reach the US Open last four since Arthur Ashe in 1972.