Carlos Alcaraz survives scare against Frances Tiafoe to keep title defence alive

Carlos Alcaraz was Wimbledon’s marathon man as he outlasted American Frances Tiafoe in a five-set Centre Court classic.

With Rain Man actor Dustin Hoffman watching from the Royal Box – fittingly on another wet day at SW19 – Tiafoe led the defending champion two sets to one, only to let him off the hook.

It was a repeat of their epic five-setter in the semi-finals of the 2022 US Open, which Alcaraz won on his way to a first grand slam title.

The 21-year-old Spaniard is now one step closer to a fourth after avoiding a shock third-round exit with a 5-7 6-2 4-6 7-6 (2) 6-2.

“Obviously it was a big challenge against Frances, he’s really tough to face and we saw it once again,” said Alcaraz.

“It was really difficult for me to adapt my game, find solutions and put him in trouble.

“I suffered a lot of difficult moments in the fourth set, and I was thinking ‘fight one more ball’. In the tie-break I tell myself I have to go for it. If I lose it, I lose it.”

Carlos Alcaraz applauds Frances Tiafoe off the court
Carlos Alcaraz applauds Frances Tiafoe off the court (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Tiafoe’s performance was remarkable given he was wearing a knee support to protect the nasty injury he suffered slipping over at Queen’s which put his Wimbledon participation in doubt.

Just last week, as he practised, the man mountain from Maryland was notably hobbling between rallies.

Yet at the start of a hugely watchable match he grabbed the decisive break his superb returning deserved to take the first set.

Alcaraz hit back in the second but some odd lapses of concentration in the third gifted Tiafoe two break points, with the 26-year-old taking the first after another exhibition-style rally when the Spaniard’s ‘tweener’ floated out.

Carlos Alcaraz lets out a roar
Carlos Alcaraz lets out a roar (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Alcaraz wriggled out of a hole at 4-4, 0-30 in the fourth, sealing the hold with an ace and a loud ‘vamos!’.

He dominated the subsequent tie-break to take a breathless match into a decider.

A slip on the baseline seemed to knock the stuffing out of Tiafoe, however, with Alcaraz quickly securing a double break and finishing with a drop shot to secure his place in the fourth round.