At 2:50 a.m. local time in New York, Carlos Alcaraz triumphed in a captivating, five-set encounter against Jannik Sinner at the US Open to reach his first grand slam semifinal.
It was, by almost half an hour, the latest ever finish in the tournament’s history. The 19-year-old Alcaraz dropped to the floor and put his hand over his face in disbelief when he sealed match point having come 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 consecutive marathon match after his five-set victory against Marin Cilic in the previous round.
Sinner was serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set, but Alcaraz hit back by winning the next three games in a row to force a decider – saving a match point in the process.
The 21-year-old Sinner then led by a break in the fifth set, too, only for Alcaraz to once again refuse to bow down. He becomes the youngest men’s grand slam semifinalist since compatriot Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest at the US Open since Pete Sampras in 1990.
“I always say that you have to believe in yourself all the time,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “Hope is the last thing that you lose … I have to stay in the match, trying to stay calm, but it’s difficult to stay calm in that moment.”
Alcaraz will next play another maiden grand slam semifinalist in Frances Tiafoe, the American having defeated Andrey Rublev in his quarterfinal.
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 clung on and forced a tie break, during which the Italian saved another set point and leveled the match.
In the third set, Alcaraz led by a break and was serving for the set at 6-5, yet a resilient Sinner broke back 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 coming from a break down in the fifth.
“During the whole match, five hours, 15 minutes of match, I feel great physically,” Alcaraz told reporters. “Of course, the level of tennis that we have played, it was really, really high. But I felt great.”
The roller coaster match is likely to be remembered as one of the greatest in the history of the US Open with a dedicated crowd watching on as it continued into the early hours of the morning.
Arguably the standout moment was a behind-the-back baseline shot from Alcaraz while under pressure in the second set. He followed it up with backhand passing shot to win the point, gesturing to the stands in celebration.
“This match is insane. I leave at 6am for the airport but I refuse to sleep and miss this,” tweeted American star Coco Gauff.
Victory means Alcaraz could still become the youngest No. 1 in the history of the men’s rankings next week following top-ranked Daniil Medvedev’s early exit from the tournament.