Alcaraz And Tiafoe Gave Their All In US Open Semifinal And Tennis Was The Winner

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: Darren Carroll/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 10, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

When Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz face off in Sunday’s US Open men’s singles final, with the winner becoming not only US Open champion – and a first-time major titlist – but also the new World No. 1, it could hardly get any more tantalizing.

After all, the World No. 7 and fifth-seeded Ruud punctuated his semifinal win over No. 27 seed Karen Khachanov by winning a 55-shot rally, then survived a comeback by the 6-foot-6-inch Olympic silver medalist, to prevail 7-6 (5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 and become the first Norwegian man to reach the US Open final. Then, once again, as he had in his two previous victories, the 19-year-old Spanish prodigy Alcaraz went the distance late at night to defeat an inspired Frances Tiafoe to keep his hopes alive of winning his first Grand Slam crown and rising to the No. 1 ranking.

The likeable and energetic third-seeded Alcaraz beat No. 22 seed Tiafoe, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3, in four hours and 19 minutes, ending just minutes before midnight – an improvement over the 2:50 a.m. Thursday morning finish after needing five sets to beat 21-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinal round. He became the second teen in the Open Era to reach the US Open final, joining American Pete Sampras.

The Alcaraz-Tiafoe tussle was an unbelievable battle that was witnessed by former First Lady Michelle Obama as well as former New York Rangers goalie Henrique Lundqvist, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal and actor Jamie Foxx. Hall of Fame great Stan Smith was there, too, as he has been all week long.

As the match wore on, it became clear that Tiafoe tried to do everything in his power to keep Alcaraz running and guessing. He threw up his best shots and they weren’t enough. Alcaraz seemed to have an answer for everything his opponent challenged him with.

By the end, Alcaraz had outpointed Tiafoe 171-142. He won 74 percent of his first-serve points and backed it by winning 60 percent of his second-serve points. He served six aces, hit 59 winners to 37 unforced errors and broke Tiafoe nine times in 20 opportunities. The American countered with 15 aces and 51 winners but also made 52 unforced errors. He was hurt by being able to only place 47 percent of his first serves in play.

After securing match point, before Alcaraz spoke to the crowd during his on-court interview with ESPN‘s Patrick McEnroe, the heartbroken Tiafoe was given an opportunity to publicly share his thoughts and emotions. It was a nice, sporting gesture. Choking back tears, the 24-year-old Hyattsville, Md. native apologized for falling short.

“I gave everything I had,” he said. “Too good from Carlos tonight. I gave everything – I gave everything I had for the last two weeks. I came here wanting to win the US Open, I feel like I let everyone own. This one hurts.

“I’m going to come back and I will win this thing one day. I’m sorry, guys.”

Afterward, Tiafoe walked off Arthur Ashe Stadium as the first American man to reach a US Open semifinal in 16 years and the first Black man to do so since Arthur Ashe 50 years ago in 1972. No doubt, he will be back.

“To be honest, in the semifinal of a Grand Slam,” said the third-seeded Alcaraz, when it was his turn, “you have to give everything … we have to fight until the last ball. It doesn’t matter if we are fighting for five, six hours. It doesn’t matter. You have to give everything on the court. Frances gave everything on court. This is amazing.”

Alcaraz, who if he beats Ruud in Sunday’s final will become the youngest World No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (since 1973), said: “I can see this No. 1 ranking, but at the same time it is so far away.”

Looking back, Tiafoe put his semifinal experience in perspective. “I would have loved to win tonight,” he said, “but I think tennis won tonight.”

Swiatek and Jabeur to meet for US Open women’s title

Saturday’s US Open women’s final between World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, seeded fifth and ranked World No. 5, is their second meeting of the year. Their previous meeting came earlier this year in the WTA 1000 Rome final, won by Swiatek 6-2, 6-2.

Currently, Swiatek and Jabeur are No. 1 and No. 2 in the Race to the WTA Finals.

Swiatek advanced to her second major final of the season and third of her career – and became the first Polish woman to reach the US Open final – after coming back from 0-2 down in the final set to beat No. 6 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. It extended her winning streak against Top 10 opponents to nine.

Meanwhile, Jabeur reached her second straight major final after routing No. 17 seed Caroline Garcia of France, 6-1, 6-3, in their semifinal on Thursday evening. Jabeur became the first Tunisian, first Arab and first African woman to reach the US Open final. She is hoping to improve upon her Wimbledon final performance, in which she lost Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

“Mentally, I was so ready,” Jabeur said after her historic victory. “After Wimbledon, a lot of pressure on me. I’m really, really relieved that I backed up my result. I’m very glad I made it to the finals here.”

Friday’s US Open results

Saturday’s US Open order of play

By the numbers

Carlos Alcaraz has spent 20 hours and 19 minutes on court through his first six matches, which is most on record at the US Open since 1999. It is also the most time on court through six matches at any Grand Slam since Kevin Anderson played for 21 hours and one minute en route to the 2018 Wimbledon final.

“Quotable …”

“It’s amazing to be able to fight for big things. First time in the final of a Grand Slam. … I have one more to go against a player who is unbelievable. He deserves to play a final. He played the final of a Grand Slam in Roland Garros. This is my first time.

“I’m going to give everything that I have. I will have to handle the nerves of being in a final of a Grand Slam, but obviously I’m really, really happy and as I said before every match, I’m going to enjoy. I’m going to enjoy the moment and let’s see what happens.”

– World No. 4 and third seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, following his semifinal victory over Frances Tiafoe that advanced him to his first major final against Casper Ruud.