Alcaraz to meet Tiafoe after great escape

·3-min read

Trading shots of the highest quality in a marathon contest, Carlos Alcaraz completed a great escape before triumphing over fellow young gun Jannik Sinner to reach the semi-finals of the US Open.

Alcaraz, the 19-year-old No.3 seed, won 6-3 6-7 (9-7) 6-7 (7-0) 7-5 6-3 in a tie lasting five hours and 15 minutes.

The Spaniard finally won the last point at 2.50am on Thursday, the latest finish in US Open history.

It was "only" a quarter-final, no trophy at stake, yet was as taut a thriller as this tournament has produced.

"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.

Alcaraz, whose five-set victory over 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic ended at 2:23 am on Tuesday, reached his first grand slam semi-final and is the youngest man to get that far at the US Open since Pete Sampras won the title at 19 in 1990.

He now has a chance to move up to No.1 in the rankings next week, but will first have to beat No.22 Frances Tiafoe of the United States on Friday.

Tiafoe earlier followed up his victory over Rafael Nadal by beating Andrey Rublev to become the first American man to reach the US Open semi-finals for 16 years.

After his much more mundane 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-0) 6-4 victory over Rublev, Tiafoe was rather prescient when asked about Alcaraz and Italian 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 since Andy Roddick in 2006 has a home player reached the last four in the men's singles, and Tiafoe is attempting to become the first home champion since Roddick won his only slam title in 2003.

The 24-year-old pulled off the win of his life against Nadal in the fourth round but this was just as impressive, with Tiafoe keeping his composure while Russian Rublev became increasingly frustrated to claim a 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-0) 6-4 victory.

"This is wild, this is crazy," said Tiafoe. "Biggest win of my life, coming out and getting another big win. It's huge growth. It's tough to turn a page but I did and now I'm in the semis.

"I feel so at home on courts like this. I want to play, I want to give my best. Let's enjoy this one but we've got two more guys."

American tennis has been desperate for its next male grand slam singles champion, and Tiafoe's victory over Nadal was hailed as the biggest result for the home nation on the men's side in New York since James Blake defeated the Spaniard back in 2005.

He did not disappoint against Rublev either, launching 18 aces and 46 winners.

Wearing a bracelet that read: "Why not me?" Tiafoe sealed it with an ace to become the first Black American man to reach a US Open semi-final since Arthur Ashe 50 years ago, playing in the stadium named after the late former champion.

Tiafoe's ebullient personality and embodiment of the American dream have made him a fan favourite and this fortnight has seen him find a winning balance between aggression and consistency.

The son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, Tiafoe picked up the sport at a tennis centre in Maryland where his father was the caretaker and where he used to sleep on the floor.

His family could not afford lessons or equipment but he played when he could and was taken under the wing of a coach who saw his potential and put him on the path to the professional game.

with AP