At 2:50 New York time, Carlos Alcaraz triumphed in a thrilling five-set encounter against Jannik Sinner at the US Open to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.
It was, with almost half an hour, the last end in the history of the tournament. Alcaraz, 19, fell to the ground and put his hand to his face in disbelief as he sealed match point after coming perilously close to defeat in the previous set.
The 6-3 6-7 6-7 7-5 6-3 victory lasted five hours and 15 minutes – Alcaraz’s second straight marathon match after his five-set win against Marin Cilic in the previous round .
Sinner served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set, but Alcaraz rallied to win the next three straight games to force a decider, saving a match point in the process.
The 21-year-old Sinner also led with a break in the fifth set, only for Alcaraz to once again refuse to bow. He becomes the youngest men’s Grand Slam semifinalist since compatriot Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest US Open since Pete Sampras in 1990.
“I always say you have to believe in yourself all the time,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “Hope is the last thing you lose … I have to stay in the game, trying to stay calm, but it’s hard to stay calm at this point.”
Alcaraz will next play another Grand Slam semi-finalist in Frances Tiafoe, the American having defeated Andrey Rublev in their quarter-final.
Playing in his third Grand Slam quarterfinal, Alcaraz got off to a fast start on Wednesday when he broke Sinner’s serve three times in the first set.
He had chances to extend his lead with set points in the second, but Sinner held on and forced a tie break, during which the Italian saved another set to level the match.
In the third set, Alcaraz led with a break and served for the set at 6-5, but a resilient Sinner broke and sailed through the resulting tie break to love.
The advantage was now with the 21-year-old, but this time it was Alcaraz’s turn to dig deep, saving a match point in the fourth before breaking out of a slump in the fifth.
“During the whole game, five hours and 15 minutes of the game, I feel very good physically,” Alcaraz told reporters. “Of course, the level of tennis we played was very, very high. But I felt really good.”
The roller-coaster match is likely to be remembered as one of the greatest in US Open history with a dedicated crowd watching as it continued into the early hours of the morning.
Arguably the highlight was a ground shot behind Alcaraz while under pressure in the second set. He followed it up with a backhand pass to win the point, waving to the stands in celebration.
“This game is crazy. I’m leaving at 6am for the airport but I refuse to sleep and I miss it,” American star Coco Gauff tweeted.
The win means Alcaraz could yet become the youngest number. 1 in the history of the men’s ranking next week after the early exit of the top seed Daniil Medvedev from the tournament.