Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz is into his first grand slam final after winning a third straight five set epic to set up a decider that will not only decide a maiden title but the World No. 1.
The four hour and 19 minute epic had it all as the Spaniard ended the stunning run of American World No. 26 in a 6-7 6-3 6-1 6-7 6-3 win on Arthur Ashe season.
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This was just a matter of days after a remarkable five hour and 15 minute quarterfinal win over Jannik Sinner which finished at just before 3am on Thursday and a five-set thriller over Marin Cilic in the fourth round.
Tiafoe had broken all kinds of droughts just to make the US Open semi-final, including being the first African-American player to make it this deep in the tournament since Ashe did it in 1972 but couldn’t quite follow in the legendary American star’s footsteps and win the tournament as he did in 1968.
However, Alcaraz once again showed incredible skill and resilience to claim the win and set up the decider against Casper Ruud.
Not only with the winner claim their first grand slam title — Ruud had already made a final at the French Open earlier this year — but the winner will claim the world No. 1 position, taking over from Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.
If it’s Alcaraz, he will become the youngest World No. 1 in history, and will beat Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, who claimed the mantle at 20 years and nine months, which is 17 months older than the Spaniard is right now.
Earlier, Ruud defeated Russia’s Karen Khachanov 7-6 6-2 5-7 6-2.
Alcaraz is the youngest grand slam finalist since Rafael Nadal won the 2005 French Open and the youngest US Open finalist since Pete Sampras in 1990.
Tiafoe went down fighting, however, saving three match points and retrieving breaks in both of the last two sets.
“We are in the semi-final of a Grand Slam, we have to give everything we have inside, we have to fight until the last ball,” Alcaraz said
“It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting for five hours or six hours. It doesn’t matter, you have to give everything on court.”
“It’s my first time in a final of a Grand Slam. I can see the number one in the world, but at the same time it’s so far away
“I’m going to give everything that I have. I will have to handle the nerves of being in the final of a Grand Slam but obviously I’m really happy.”
Tiafoe, who will rise to 19th in the world — one spot ahead of Aussie Nick Kyrgios — was clearly gutted but had nothing but praise for his conqueror.
“I gave everything I had, too good from Carlos tonight,” Tiafoe said. “Honestly I came here wanting to win the US Open, I feel like I let you guys down. This one really hurts.”
While one player was always going to be distraught, tennis fans were in raptures about the show the pair put on.
Singer Eryn Allen Kane posted: “That Tiafoe/Alcaraz match was the most exciting thing I’ve watched all yr.”
NBA Sports’ Reuben Frank commented: “Alcaraz’s shotmaking is beyond belief. He’s going to be an all-timer. He’s 19.”
NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano tweeted: “Alcaraz is pretty incredible. What a great match.”
Actor Rosie Perez added: “Congratulations @carlosalcaraz! And mad respect to @FTiafoe!! Both put on an amazing performance.”
SportsCentre’s Phil Murphy wrote: “Alcaraz is gonna end up with 15-20 majors. He’s remarkable.”
Sports broadcaster Jackie Pepper posted: “What a match. Tiafoe was an absolute joy at this tournament. Alcaraz is absolutely bonkers. Gotta root for him in the final.”
Ruud will be appearing in his second Grand Slam final of the season after finishing runner-up to Nadal at the French Open in June.
“After Roland Garros, I was extremely happy but at the same time humble enough to think that could be my only final in a Grand Slam in my career,” Ruud said.
“They don’t come easy. So here I am a couple of months later – it feels beyond words to describe.”
The 23-year-old Norwegian set the tone for his dominance early in the semi-final when he came out on top in a 55-shot rally to convert a third set point in the opening tie-break which his Russian rival described as “crazy”.
If he wins the US Open final, he will become the first Norwegian ever to be world No. 1.