Late-Night Victory For Alcaraz Keeps Hopes Alive For Title, No. 1 Ranking

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: Andrew Ong/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 6, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

New York is a city that never sleeps – and, after Monday’s night’s US Open fourth-round match between Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz and Marin Cilic of Croatia, which started about 10:30 p.m. but didn’t end until 2:23 a.m. Tuesday morning, it seems that pro tennis has become the sport that never sleeps, either.

Though not a record, the No. 3 seed Alcaraz’s 6-4, 3-6 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Cilic on Arthur Ashe Stadium, lasted three hours, 54 minutes and missed by three minutes for the latest finish in Open history. Still, it was the fourth-latest New York finish – the record of 2:26 a.m. is shared by three matches – and It also advanced Alcaraz to the last eight for the second straight year.

The 19-year-old, World No. 4 Alcaraz was the last player to reach the quarterfinals in one of the longest but most memorable days at the Open – and he dropped to his knees after he won a most grueling match over the No. 15 seed Cilic. The fourth set alone lasted about an hour. With the elimination of Cilic, who won the 2014 US Open, there’s not a former US Open champion remaining in either the men’s or women’s draw.

“Honestly, I have no idea,” Alcaraz said, when asked during his on-court interview how he managed to win. “It was pretty, pretty tough at the beginning of the fifth set [being] a break down. But Marin was playing unbelievable. I believe in myself all the time. Of course, the support today in Arthur Ashe [Stadium] was crazy. Without you guys, it wouldn’t be possible to win this match tonight, so thank you very much for the support tonight. Thank you.

“I would say 100 percent of the energy I put in the fifth set was thanks to you. It was unbelievable.”

Alcaraz finished with 28 winners and made 41 unforced errors. He converted six of 18 break points and outpointed Cilic 143-142. The 17th-ranked Croatian hit 14 aces, struck 45 winners but committed 66 unforced errors.

After 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal lost to No. 22 seed Frances Tiafoe earlier Monday, it left Cilic as the only former Grand Slam champion remaining in the men’s draw. Now, with Cilic out, there will be a first-time major titlist crowned on Sunday.

With Alcaraz’s victory and Nadal’s defeat, it means that the young Spaniard can end the Open ranked No. 1. If he is successful, he would be the youngest No. 1 on the ATP Tour since Lleyton Hewitt at age 20 in 2001.

Sinner holds off Ivashka, sets up quarterfinal against Alcaraz

No. 11 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy went the distance against unseeded Ilya Ivashka of Belarus to clinch a spot in the all four Grand Slam quarterfinals this year. Next, he will face No. 3 seed Carlos Alcaraz, who the young Italian beat in four sets when they played earlier this summer at the Wimbledon Championships.

The 21-year-old Sinner, the youngest player since Novak Djokovic at age 20 in 2007 to reach the quarterfinals of all four majors in a season, trailed 3-1 in the final set but won five straight games to close out his 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory over the 73rd-ranked Ivashka that took three hours and 48 minutes to complete on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Sinner, who placed only 46 percent of his first serves in play, overcame 14 double faults – seven in the second set, alone and 53 unforced errors by hitting 46 winners. He won 12 break points against Ivashka, who was hampered by 13 double faults and 64 unforced errors. Sinner outpointed Ivashka 163-137.

“Today I was struggling, I was not playing my best,” Sinner admitted, during his on-court interview. “But in the fifth set I tried to dig deep and I’m very happy to be in the next round.”

Sinner joins World No. 14 and 13th seed Matteo Berrettini to give the Italians two men in the quarterfinal field for the first time in tournament history. They were also quarterfinalists at the Australian Open earlier this season.

The road to a new ATP Tour No. 1

According to the ATP Tour, here are the scenarios in play for crowning a new No. 1 after the US Open:

• Right now, Rafael Nadal is No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, Carlos Alcaraz is at No. 2, and Casper Ruud is No. 5.

• If Alcaraz advances to the final and Ruud doesn’t, Alcaraz will become World No. 1 on Monday.

• If Ruud makes the final and Alcaraz doesn’t, Ruud will be the new No. 1.

• If both men reach the championship match, the winner will become World No. 1.

• If neither Alcaraz or Ruud reaches the final, Nadal will return to World No. 1.

US Open on pace to set all-time attendance record

Attendance at this year’s US Open, from the beginning of the main draw on August 29 through Labor Day weekend (September 5), tallied 549,657 fans. It’s the highest-ever attendance for the tournament through its first eight days at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. The previous record was set in 2019 with 540,333 spectators.

Monday’s US Open results

Tuesday’s US Open order of play

By the numbers

• American Coco Gauff, just 18, is now guaranteed to break into the Top 10 in singles for the first time on the WTA Tour after the US Open. The No. 12 seed Gauff, who is yet to drop a set through her first four victories, faces No. 17 seed Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinal round Tuesday evening on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

• Three of the four men’s players competing Tuesday (Casper Ruud, Nick Kyrgios and Karen Khachanov) are appearing in their first US Open quarterfinal. With defending champion Daniil Medvedev eliminated in the fourth round on Sunday, a first-time US Open finalist is guaranteed from the top half of the draw. Meanwhile, in the bottom half of the draw, two players (Frances Tiafoe and Jannik Sinner) will be appearing in their first US Open quarterfinal.

“Quotable …”

“I played a couple of times against him. He’s a great player, a really, really tough one. I lost twice in the past two months, so I will have to be ready for this battle against Jannik.”

– No. 3 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, who trails his head-to-head series against No. 11 seed Jannik Sinner, his quarterfinal opponent on Wednesday, 2-1.