Carlos Alcaraz ends Frances Tiafoe’s US Open to reach first Grand Slam final

Carlos Alcaraz ends Frances Tiafoe’s US Open to reach first Grand Slam final


After a sensational first set, the Frances Tiafoe Express derailed Friday night at the U.S. Open, but not before he did himself proud in rallying to force a fifth set against Carlos Alcaraz in a monumental semifinal. 

But Alcaraz, the 19-year-old Spanish marathon man, ended Tiafoe’s run with a spectacular rally to move to his first U.S. Open final with a 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 victory in a four-hour-plus slugfest at Arthur Ashe Stadium that didn’t end until midnight. 

“I gave everything I had,” Tiafoe said. “I gave everything I had the last two weeks. I wanted to win the U.S. Open. I felt I let everyone down. Kudos of Carlos. You’re going to win a lot of Grand Slams. I will come back and win this thing one day.” 

Alcaraz looked fresh as a daisy after losing a first-set tiebreaker. He used his breathtaking speed, drop shots and full arsenal of angled groundstrokes to wear down Tiafoe, who looked up to the challenge early before sputtering, though he rose up to force a fourth-set tiebreaker with exceptional grit. 

Carlos Alcaraz will play in his first Grand Slam final Sunday at the U.S. Open.
REUTERS

For a while, the two warriors went toe-to-toe, trading their power, displaying their speed in a breathtaking spectacle. Tiafoe is fast. Alcaraz is faster. 

Dubbed “The Next Nadal,’’ Alcaraz now will face Norwegian Casper Ruud in the Open final on Sunday. It remains to be seen if Alcaraz has anything left. 

Alcaraz has now survived three straight five-set matches, including a 5 hour, 15 minute war against Jannik Sinner that ended at 2:50 a.m. on Thursday morning. But he somehow has responded with fresh legs each time. 

Tiafoe’s deep run and fourth-set revival offered hope the 24-year-old from the Washington metropolitan. area can be a factor in majors for years to come after a somewhat disappointing career that began at Flushing Meadows when he was 16. 

This Tiafoe-Alcaraz match could be the start of a long rivalry that could go deep in majors. 

With fans chanting “Let’s go Frances,” Tiafoe got a second wind when all looked hopeless. Trailing 5-4 in the fourth set, he saved a match point with a sensational get of an Alcaraz drop shot. He spun it in for a winner that died two feet past the net and the fans were in a frenzy. 

Frances Tiafoe reacts after losing a point to Carlos Alcaraz during the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Friday.
Frances Tiafoe reacts after losing a point to Carlos Alcaraz during the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Friday.
AP

And then Tiafoe forced a fourth-set tiebreaker, took a 3-1 lead and repelled an Alcaraz rally to 4-4 after the Spaniard hit a wondrous dropshot to tie. Tiafoe fought back with his nerves of steel while Alcaraz drilled two bullet forehands that barely missed to send the match to a fifth set. 

Tiafoe, the first American man in the Open semis since Andy Roddick in 2006, couldn’t get his first serve in often enough in the fifth set and Alcaraz held on. 

Tiafoe’s ride drew celebrities such as Michelle Obama and Jon Bon Jovi. Wizards star Bradley Beal sat in Tiafoe’s box and Nets guard Ben Simmons showed up, too, though he was booed. Alcaraz had his support, but the Ashe Stadium crowd was behind the American — the first black men’s player to make the Open semifinals since Arthur Ashe himself in 1972. 

Carlos Alcaraz reacts after defeating Frances Tiafoe.
Carlos Alcaraz reacts after defeating Frances Tiafoe.
Larry Marano

Tiafoe played a brilliant 64-minute first set with the two young speedsters advancing into a tiebreaker. Alcaraz fought off four set points after falling behind 6-3, but Tiafoe ultimately prevailed. 

At 7-6, his nerves finally froze Alcaraz, who double-faulted to give Tiafoe a 7-0 mark in tiebreaks during the tournament, which tied an Open record. Then Tiafoe broke that record in the fourth set when he improved to 8-0 in tiebreaks. 

Alcaraz survived his first set point when he was trailing 6-5 and serving. During that game, there came the point of the match when each of the two speedsters retrieved impossible drop shots and the crowd exploded in cheers. Finally, Alcaraz polished it off by hitting a running forehand past Tiafoe, who was stuck at the net. 

Carlos Alcaraz hits a backhand.
Carlos Alcaraz hits a backhand.
Larry Marano

Instead of getting down on himself, Tiafoe smiled at Alcaraz to salute the wondrous rally and proceeded to compose himself and to win the tiebreaker. 

In the second set, at 1-1, Alcaraz fought off a break point, then closed out the game in magnificent fashion. 

Tiafoe got to a drop shot and sent it down the line. Somehow, the Spaniard raced back and hit it back on the fly near the baseline with his backhand. Alcaraz eventually won the point, after which Tiafoe hopped over the net as if he were going to hug Alcaraz in admiration. 

Frances Tiafoe salutes the crowd after being eliminated from the US Open.
Frances Tiafoe salutes the crowd after being eliminated from the US Open.
Larry Marano

They were each smiling during the changeover, but it seemed to be the beginning of the end for Tiafoe. 

Alcaraz closed out the second set and won the first two games of the third set at love. At one juncture, Alcaraz reeled off 11 straight points. Now he moves in into the final of a major for the first time. 

In Ruud, Alcaraz will be facing the 2022 French Open champion, who is humble enough to realize he may never do anything as big again. 

The fifth-seeded Norwegian exhibited his heavy topspin forehand and advanced to the finals with a 7-6, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Russian Karen Khachanov. 

“I’m so happy,’’ Ruud said. “After Roland Garros, I was extremely happy but humble enough that it could be my only final at a Grand Slam in my career. And here I am back a couple of months later.’’ 

Yes, here he is. No Norwegian had ever so much as made it to an Open quarterfinal until this fortnight. And now he will be battling the young Spaniard who has never made a final of a major. 

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.