Alcaraz Wins Epic Against Tiafoe, Sets Historic Winner-Takes-All US Open Final
Carlos Alcaraz on Friday evening guaranteed there will be a winner-takes-all US Open final for the season’s final Grand Slam trophy and the No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking.
The third seed battled past home favourite Frances Tiafoe 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-3 after four hours and 19 minutes to reach his first major championship match. Alcaraz is the second teen to make the US Open final in the Open Era, joining legendary American Pete Sampras.
“To be honest in the semi-final of a Grand Slam you have to give everything… we have to fight until the last ball. It doesn’t matter if we are fighting for five hours, six hours. It doesn’t matter. You have to give everything on court,” Alcaraz said. “Frances gave everything on court. This is amazing.”
Alcaraz, who has won three consecutive five-setters lasting a combined 13 hours and 28 minutes, will face Norwegian Casper Ruud for the title. The winner will claim his first Slam crown as well as World No. 1. If the Spaniard triumphs, he will become the youngest World No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (since 1973).
“It’s amazing to be able to fight for big things. First time in the final of a Grand Slam. I can see the No. 1 in the world, but at the same time it’s so far away,” Alcaraz said. “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.”
Tiafoe put up an admirable fight against the two-time ATP Masters 1000 champion, playing aggressively and winning two memorable tie-breaks to move to 8-0 in tie-breaks at this year’s US Open. But Alcaraz never faltered under the pressure inside a raucuous Arthur Ashe Stadium, improving to 8-1 in five-setters, including 5-0 at Flushing Meadows.
The home favourite showed no fear, no matter the deficit he faced. Late in the fourth set, Tiafoe could be heard saying “I’m putting my heart on the f****** line” twice in a row. But ultimately, Alcaraz played from in front for too long in the match for the 22nd seed to overcome.
“I gave everything I had left tonight,” Tiafoe said. “Too good Carlos, I am happy I got to share the big stage with you.”
The key came at 1-1 in the second set, when Tiafoe earned a break point to go up a set and a break. Alcaraz carved a poor drop shot, to which Tiafoe replied with a drop shot of his own, missing wide. Instead of surging ahead by a set and a break, he allowed the Spaniard to gain momentum.
As well as Tiafoe did in the first hour of the match to prevent his opponent from dominating baseline play, he struggled to slow down the ‘Alcaraz Avalanche’ the rest of their clash. The reigning Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion broke for a 4-2 lead in the set and found his best tennis from there.
The longer the match went on, it was clear Tiafoe was fighting to reach a state of neutrality in the action. He was throwing all the shots in his arsenal at Alcaraz, but was unable to put the third seed into discomfort long enough for the five-time ATP Tour titlist to drop his level.
Battle For World No. 1 At US Open Down To Ruud & Alcaraz
Alcaraz took Tiafoe’s best shots and as soon as the American slowed down his flurry, he accelerated like a runaway train rolling downhill. What proved especially costly for the home favourite was his low first-serve percentage of 47 per cent, which gave Alcaraz an opportunity to take the initiative far too often.
The crowd, which is almost always on Tiafoe’s side, urged both men on, cheering the many incredible rallies between the pair. The fans helped the American hang on in the fourth set, recovering a service break twice during a stretch of four consecutive breaks.
Alcaraz showed no ill effects physically following his quarter-final epic against Jannik Sinner, which was the second-longest match in US Open history (five hours, 15 minutes), resulting in the latest-ever finish at the tournament (2:50 a.m.). So despite Tiafoe playing a courageous fourth-set tie-break, the Spaniard was physically ready for the decider.
Although Alcaraz relinquished one break advantage in the fifth set, he did not let slip a second. After Tiafoe missed a final shot in the net, the Spaniard fell to his back and celebration. Tiafoe quickly went to the other side of the court and the pair shared a warm embrace. Alcaraz became the first player on Tour to reach 50 wins in 2022, improving to 50-9 on the season.
Despite the loss, Tiafoe enjoyed a breakthrough tournament, advancing to his first major semi-final. During his run, the American stunned 22-time Slam winner Rafael Nadal and upset ninth seed Andrey Rublev.
Did You Know?
The longer the points went, the more they tilted in Alcaraz’s favour. The 19-year-old won 67 per cent of points (72/107) that lasted at least five shots.