merican Frances Tiafoe, 24, could very easily be playing in tomorrow’s U.S. Open men’s final. With a rollicking Friday night New York City crowd—which included Michelle Obama and Jon Bon Jovi—squarely on his side, he turned in an inspiring performance in Friday’s semi, fighting back when all seemed lost to force a fifth set. He was able to defeat most of his opponents.
Carlos Alcaraz is 19, however, far away from the majority of players. Perhaps he is the only one.
This is a little hyperbole from a young man who recently won the Grand Slam final. Typically, sure.
Alcaraz sure doesn’t feel typical.
Take a look at the many ways. After a 5 hour, 15 minute quarterfinal match, Alcaraz was exhausted and had to return for the final game at 2:50 am Thursday. On Friday, Alcaraz used every tool in his amazing tennis arsenal during another marathon thriller, which lasted 4 hours, 18 mins. In his 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3 victory over Tiafoe, Alcaraz chased down balls he had no right to reach, a talent that clearly invaded Tiafoe’s headspace: Tiafoe made a few ghastly unforced errors while trying to send shots far away—too far away—from the Spanish teenager. Alcaraz will be facing No. 5 Casper Ruud, of Norway, in Sunday’s final, dialed up the power when he needed. Surprise drop shots were used when Tiafoe didn’t expect them. Alcaraz painted the courts’ edges like an artist. Tiafoe giggled and shrugged when robotic umps confirmed that Alcaraz was indeed the winner.
This was one of, if it wasn’t the best moment of the tournament. Alcaraz had to win one point more in order for a tiebreaker to take place. Alcaraz battled for not one, but two Tiafoe final shots. Tiafoe did send the last one past Alcaraz. Alacaraz didn’t relent. Then he ran back to Alcaraz’s baseline and whipped an impossible pass shot past Tiafoe. It was as though Serena Williams had won the match.
True, American tennis enthusiasts are passionate. The “let’s go Frances” chants give that away. However, they are deserved credit for their appreciation of the surreal.
“I never played a guy who moves as well as him, honestly,” says Tiafoe. “How he’s able to extend points, incredible. He’s a hell of a player. He’s going to be a problem for a very long time.”
Alcaraz was joined by Tiafoe in a hilarious duel on a 17 shot rally. Alcarez was a masterful defensive player, lunging at Tiafoe’s laser. Alcarez got his racket on the ball and sent it back to Tiafoe, who extended the point. After Alcaraz eventually forced a backhand error from Tiafoe, the American leapt over the net and waved a hand at him, as if to say, “are you kidding me?” They laughed.
These are the joyous times we can expect for tennis over the next few years.
He reached match point with that fifth set lob. Alcaraz ran down a Tiafoe attempt, slid on his shoes as if he was on clay—Ashe is the hardest of hardcourts—and lofted a winner right at the baseline. Alcaraz played just as well tonight, one last note.
Made in Spain
Alcaraz was born into tennis. Hailing from El Palmar, a district of the city of Murcia—where a giant mural now hangs in his honor—his father Carlos ran a tennis academy. His grandfather was the original member of a tennis club. When he was just three years old, he received his first tennis racket. Juan Carlos Ferrero is his coach and the ex-world No. 1, from Spain: He won the French Open the year Alcaraz was birthed.
Alcaraz was victorious in four tournaments this season, including Miami, Barcelona and Madrid. Miami, like the U.S. Open is hardcourt and one of most highly regarded outside of majors, has Alcaraz defeated Ruud in the final. He bounced Rafael Nadal in Madrid to win his idol, who was then the world No. Novak Djokovic was also No. In successive matches, 3 Alexander Zverev from Germany.
AlcarezRuud’s winner will become the world’s No. 1. If Alcaraz prevails, he’d become the youngest top-ranked player ever. He’s played nearly 10 hours of tennis in his last two matches. Fatigue is possible. Alcaraz is still 19 and is extremely fit.
“No matter what I’m fighting for or what I am, I [am]Enjoy it, just go for it[ing] the moment,” he says.
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