Carlos Alcaraz has left the tennis world in awe after surviving yet another five set marathon to win through to the US Open finalat the expense of home hopeful Frances Tiafoe.
In what may go down as a semi-final for the ages, Alcaraz somehow had enough left in the tank after previously going the distance against Marin Cilic and Jannik Sinner in the round of 16 and quarter finals respectively.
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The Spanish teenager overcame an inspired game from Tiafoe to earn a 6-7 (8-6) 6-3 6-1 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 victory at Arthur Ashe stadium, giving himself a shot to earn the World No.1 ranking against Casper Ruud in the final.
No.3 Alcaraz moved ahead by grabbing nine of 10 games in one stretch and could have ended the semi-final when he held a match point in the fourth set.
Tiafoe saved that and forced a fifth set by improving to 8-0 in tiebreakers during the tournament.
Showing no signs of fatigue from his five-hour, 15-minute quarter-final win that ended at 2.50 am on Thursday, Alcaraz was better down the stretch, taking four of the last five games.
Tennis fans were utterly engrossed by the match as it unfolded as the momentum swung between each player.
The 19-year-old Alcaraz, who now has a genuine shot at seizing the record for the youngest ever World No.1 from Australian great Lleyton Hewitt, collapsed to the ground after finally toppling Tiafoe.
The vanquished American was all class afterwards, telling the raucous home crowd he felt as though he had ‘let everyone down’ before vowing to return and win next year.
Alcaraz seemed on his way to sewing things up by breaking Tiafoe early in the fourth set, but the American got the stadium back on his side with two straight breaks of Alcaraz, to tie up the fourth set 4-4, thanks largely to a run where he won eight of the last 10 points.
The Spaniard, though, never went away, powering through the next game to get a point away from the win, before Tiafoe battled back with a huge save to send the serve to Alcaraz at 5-5.
The two then split and Tiafoe forced another tiebreak, the eighth of the tournament.
After going 5-5, Tiafoe drilled an ace off a 133 mph serve and then picked up the win after Alcaraz hit one out to give Tiafoe the win and send the match to a fifth set.
Even with Tiafoe riding all that momentum and emotion, Alcaraz took back control with a break to open the fifth set.
Tiafoe seemed to get back in it with a break back to even it 2-2, generating a show of frustration from Alcaraz, but then Alcaraz found another gear.
Two more breaks of Tiafoe followed, as missed first serves and avoided mistakes from the baseline started piling up before Alcaraz secured his eventual triumph.
Carlos Alcaraz to face Casper Ruud in US Open final for No.1 rank
Alcaraz will face No.7 Casper Ruud for the championship on Sunday with so much on the line – the winner will become a major champion for the first time and lead the rankings next week.
Ruud earlier harnessed his mighty forehand to reach his second grand slam final this year by beating Russian Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 5-7 6-2.
The first Norwegian man to reach the final at Flushing Meadows won an extraordinary 55-shot rally to close the first-set tiebreak on his way to victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“This match is probably the biggest match for both of our careers,” said Ruud, who was left humbled when he lost in straight sets to Rafa Nadal in June’s Roland Garros final.
“You want to take care of the opportunities you have and I was able to do that today.”
The Roland-Garros runner-up is known for his poise on clay but proved equally effective on New York’s hard courts, winning 14 straight points to build a 5-1 lead in a near-flawless second set.
His form deteriorated in the third set, where he racked up 11 unforced errors and handed Khachanov, who beat Australian Nick Kyrgios in the previous round, the break on set point.
However, Ruud bounced back to convert breaks on chances in the third and fifth game of the fourth set and clinched the contest with a forehand winner, one of 20 across the match.
Ruud would make the leap from world No.7 to No.1 if he hoists the trophy on Sunday.
With agencies/Yahoo Sport US
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