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US Open 2022: Carlos Alcaraz becomes YOUNGEST semifinalist since Pete Sampras, beats Jannik Sinner in five sets

Carlos Alcaraz has a chance to move up to No. 1 in the rankings next week, and will face No. 22 Frances Tiafoe of the United States on Friday in the US Open 2022 semifinals. 

US Open 2022: Carlos Alcaraz becomes YOUNGEST semifinalist since Pete Sampras, beats Jannik Sinner in five sets Source: Twitter

This was a match that would not end. Should not end, one might say. Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, two of the brightest young stars of men’s tennis, traded shots of the highest quality and countless momentum swings across five sterling sets for 5 hours, 15 minutes until Alcaraz finally won the last point at 2:50 am on Thursday (September 8), the latest finish in US Open history.

It was “only” a quarterfinal, no trophy at stake, yet was as taut a thriller as this year's tournament has produced or, likely, will, a tour de force of big cuts on the full sprint and plenty of guts, concluding as a 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 victory for the No. 3-seeded Alcaraz, a 19-year-old from Spain. “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 such as “unbelievable” and “amazing.” No hyperbole there. “This one will hurt for quite a while,” said No. 11 Sinner, a 21-year-old from Italy. “But tomorrow, I will wake up — or today, I will wake up — trying to somehow (take away) only the positives.”

When the 382nd, and final, point was over, Sinner and Alcaraz hugged each other. A handshake at the net would not suffice. Alcaraz reached his first Grand Slam semifinal and is the youngest man to get that far at the US Open since Pete Sampras won the title at 19 in 1990.

Alcaraz has a chance to move up to No. 1 in the rankings next week, and will face No. 22 Frances Tiafoe of the United States on Friday. The other men’s semifinal that day is No. 5 Casper Ruud of Norway vs. No. 27 Karen Khachanov of Russia.

This match began Wednesday evening at about 9:45 p.m. and easily surpassed the previous mark for latest time of finish at the US Open, which had been 2:26 a.m., shared by three matches. Alcaraz has been working overtime in New York: His five-set victory over 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round wrapped up at 2:23 a.m. on Tuesday.

“I always say you have to believe in yourself all the time,” Alcaraz said. “The hope is the last thing that you lose.”

After his much more mundane, three-set victory over Andrey Rublev in a quarterfinal that finished at about 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Tiafoe was rather prescient when asked about Alcaraz and Sinner. “I just hope they play a marathon match, super-long match,” Tiafoe said with a smile, “and they get really tired come Friday.”

Not only did this one run late, it ran long: Only a 5-hour, 26-minute match between Stefan Edberg and Michael Chang in 1992 took more time at the US Open. Asked afterward how he was feeling physically out there against Sinner, Alcaraz began with a quick response: “I felt great.”

It was as back-and-forth as could be. The highlights were too many to list. Just one: Alcaraz won one point after extending a rally by wrapping his racket behind his back to make contact with the ball. One more: Alcaraz fell onto his backside, then sprung up to race to smack a backhand that won that point.

(with PTI inputs)