NEW YORK (AP) — This was a match that would not end. It must not end, one might say. Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, two of the brightest stars in men’s tennis, exchanged the highest quality shots and countless swings of momentum in five sets over 5 hours and 15 minutes, until Alcaraz finally took the last point at 2:50 on Thursday. . , the last submission in US Open history.
It was “only” a quarter-final, no trophies on the line, but it was as tense a thriller as this year’s tournament produced, or likely will produce, a tour de force of big cuts in the full sprint and plenty of guts, concluding as a 6. -3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 win for third seed Alcaraz, a 19-year-old Spaniard.
“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”. No hyperbole there.
“This one is going to hurt for a long time,” said No. 11 Sinner, a 21-year-old Italian. “But tomorrow, I’m going to wake up – or today, I’m going to wake up – trying somehow (take) only the positives.”
When the 382nd and final point ended, Sinner and Alcaraz embraced. A handshake in the net would not be enough.
Alcaraz reached his first Grand Slam semifinal and is the youngest man to reach the US Open this far since Pete Sampras won the title at age 19 in 1990.
Alcaraz has a chance to climb to number one in the rankings next week, and will face No. 22 Frances Tiafoe of the United States on Friday. The other men’s semi-final that day is Norway’s No. 5 Casper Ruud against Russia’s No. 27 Karen Khachanov.
This match kicked off Wednesday night at around 9:45 pm and easily surpassed the previous mark for the last US Open finishing time, which had been 2:26, shared by three games.
Alcaraz has been working overtime in New York: his five-set win over 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round ended at 2:23 a.m. on Tuesday.
“I always say you have to believe in yourself all the time,” Alcaraz said. “Hope is the last thing you lose.”
After his much more mundane three-set win over Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals that ended around 4:45pm on Wednesday, Tiafoe was pretty prescient when asked about Alcaraz and Sinner.
“I just hope they play a marathon, a super long match,” Tiafoe said with a smile, “and get really tired on Friday.”
This one not only delayed, it lasted a long time: only a 5-hour, 26-minute match between Stefan Edberg and Michael Chang in 1992 took the longest at the US Open.
Asked later how he was feeling physically against Sinner, Alcaraz began with a quick response: “I felt great.”
Then he paused and smiled, before continuing: “Well, probably at the end of the match, I was (at) my end.”
The clock was already past 2 am when Coco Gauff, the 18-year-old American who was runner-up at the French Open and was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the US Open on Tuesday, spoke to whoever is paying attention. attention on Alcaraz vs Sinner when she tweeted: “this match is insane. I leave at 6 am for the airport, but I refuse to sleep and I miss it. #Sinner #Alcaraz”
Still, even with thousands and thousands of empty seats, there was enough to make as much noise as a full house sometimes. Both players waved their rackets or made arm movements to encourage the fans to get even louder. And, naturally, the fans would accept.
“It could have ended in three sets. It could have ended in four sets. It could have ended in five sets,” Sinner said. “We both wanted to win, for sure. We both tried our best.”
It was the most back-and-forth possible. The highlights were too many to list. Only one: Alcaraz earned a point after extending a rally by wrapping your racket in the back to make contact with the ball. One more: Alcaraz fell on his ass then jumped up run to hit a backhand that won that point.
After winning the first set, Alcaraz kept five set points in the second – but Sinner saved them all.
In the third, Alcaraz broke to lead 6-5 and served for that set – but Sinner broke to force a tiebreaker which he dominated.
In the fourth, it was Sinner who served for the match at 5-4, even reaching a point of victory – but Alcaraz broke and ended up pushing what was already a masterpiece into the fifth.
And in the fifth, after another memorable kick – a winning backhand run pass that passed just past Sinner’s outstretched arm – earned him a break point and a chance at a 5-3 lead, Alcaraz put a finger to his ear.
He would convert it, then it would do. When the end came, Alcaraz fell on his back, his chest heaving, and covered his face with his hand.
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