Carlos Alcaraz won a fascinating next generation battle against Jannik Sinner to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final in the last ever US Open milestone.
Alcaraz finally got a 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 win at 2:50 am after five hours and 15 minutes of exhilarating tennis to organize one clash with home favorite Frances Tiafoe on Friday.
Surprisingly, three games had previously ended at 2:26, while this was the second time Alcaraz had played past 2:00 in succession after his fourth round win over Marin Cilic ended at 2:23.
The 19-year-old saved a match point in the fourth set and came from a breakdown in the decider against his 21-year-old opponent to prove once again why he is destined to dominate the sport
The Spanish teenager also added another shot that stopped the show to his growing list when he scored a daring shot behind the back, which ultimately scored a winner on the cross forehand in the second set.
Alcaraz could still leave New York as world number one but, in a tournament that seems to have finally marked a real change of guard, this match was more of a demonstration that men’s tennis doesn’t need to be afraid of a future without his aging superstar.
The fans who stayed until the end cheered loudly for Alcaraz, and he said: “Honestly, I don’t know how I did it yet. The level of the match, the high quality of the tennis.
“Today’s game is incredible. Jannik Sinner is a great player. I will never tire of saying that all the victories I have achieved in this fantastic field are thanks to the support I receive.
“I just believed in myself, I believed in my game. I knew that ending a game is really difficult, I have to stay in the game, try to stay calm.”
Sinner’s spell as the brightest young talent in tennis was quickly disrupted by the emergence of Alcaraz, who overtook his rival and entered the top 10.
But the Italian had taken the lead in two recent matches, in the fourth round at Wimbledon and then at the ATP tournament in Umag, Croatia.
Sinner started nervously, failing three times in his opening serve match, and although he quickly recovered, Alcaraz was pulling his shots with more conviction and deservedly took the first set.
The second was probably the best of the tournament so far. This time it was Sinner who took the lead at the start, his flat hit gave him the initiative, and he held his lead until he got into the serve at 5-4, when Alcaraz made a pause.
The Spaniard looked ready to take the set when he moved up to 0-40 in Sinner’s next serve match just for the Italian to produce some clutch serve when he needed it most.
With Sinner at the game point to force the tiebreaker and after another excellent serve, Alcaraz pulled out the tournament shot, wrapping his racket around his back to fly the low ball over the net and then overtaking the opponent with a winner.
Arthur Ashe fans couldn’t believe what they witnessed, but Alcaraz then dumped a forehand into the net on set point as Sinner held out.
Alcaraz had another chance to take the set in the tiebreak, but Sinner saved him with an ace and then landed a backhand in the corner to equalize the game.
If Alcaraz wondered how he could not take the second set, the same was certainly true for the third, where he led twice with a break only for Sinner who produced almost miracles with his back to the wall.
After beating his opponent when he served 6-5, Sinner won seven consecutive points to take the tiebreaker.
As the clock ticked around 2am, Sinner was now on the rise and twice led from a break in the fourth set.
But this time it was Alcaraz who stole a set, saving a match point at 5-4 and winning the last four games that forced the decision. There Sinner struck again first, but Alcaraz built up the pressure and took the victory with an ace.