Carlos Alcaraz is equipped to stay up late… and to reign long

In the early hours of Thursday night, several ATP and WTA rackets expressed on social networks all the admiration and fascination aroused in them by the hellish duel that took place in the quarter-finals of the 19-year-old Spanish prodigy Carlos Alcaraz and the talented 21-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner.

Their marathon match, which kicked off at 9:25 p.m. Wednesday, lasted 5:15 a.m., making it the second-longest duel in the tournament. Alcaraz ended up scoring the decisive point at 2:50 a.m. Thursday, when waiters in New York bars had already announced their last service to their customers.

Never has a match ended so late at Flushing Meadows.

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Alcaraz won in five sets of 6-3, 6-7 (7/9), 6-7 (0/7), 7-5 and 6-3. For the record, we will remember that he saved a match point when he lost 4-5 in the fourth set. To obtain his place in the semi-finals, he also used a recipe that befits the greatest champions: he did not fight himself. He committed only 38 unforced errors compared to the 63 recorded by Sinner.

We will also remember that Alcaraz became the youngest player to reach the four of aces in New York since Pete Sampras, who had won this major tournament at 19 in 1990. In the grand slam tournament, Rafael Nadal (Roland-Garros in 2005) was the last to sneak into the semi-finals before his 20th birthday.

In May 2005, he had just reached the world top 5 and fascinated the world. He defeated Roger Federer in the semi-finals in Paris and won the first of his 22 major titles against Mariano Puerta.

Carlos Alcaraz stirs up the same kind of excitement during these thrilling US Opens.

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Following the elimination of Nadal in the round of 16, it could be that Alcaraz or Casper Ruud climbed to 1st place in the world at the end of the tournament. A win for either in the semi-finals would see a changing of the guard at the top.

Before winning his pass for the final, Alcaraz will first have to defeat Frances Tiafoe, which is far from being done. In his last two games, the American beat Nadal (2nd in the world) and Russian Andrey Rublev (11th). For his part, the 23-year-old Norwegian (7th) will cross paths with the Russian Karen Khachanov, holder of the 31st rank at the ATP.

It doesn’t matter if Alcaraz or Ruud take the world No. 1, it will already be a huge event on the tennis scene. Because since 2004, out of a total of 949 weeks, Roger Federer (310), Novak Djokovic (373) and Rafael Nadal (209) have been at the top for 892 weeks, or 94% of the time.

During these 18 years, only two eclipses have occurred: Andy Murray ascended the throne for 41 weeks (2016 and 2017) and the current No. 1, the Russian Daniil Medvedev, occupied it for 16 weeks (2022).

That said, this is the first time that we have really seen a young racket like Alcaraz emerge, who has settled so easily into the tennis jungle and who seems to have everything it takes to change the established order for so many years.

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This weekend, the ultimate fireworks would be Alcaraz meeting Ruud in the final and the Spaniard winning. He would thus become the youngest world No. 1 in the history of tennis. Nothing less!

The youngest holder of the 1st rank so far has been Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who took the throne at the age of 20 years and 8 months in 2001.

If Alcaraz won, it would be one of the greatest feats in the history of professional sports in any discipline. It is extremely rare to see a male athlete dominate his sport on the world stage before the age of 20.

His incredible journey, which already arouses admiration all over the planet, announces that anything is possible for him.

This year, Carlos Alcaraz notably defeated Nadal and Djokovic two days in a row in Madrid. A slipper with that? No one had achieved such a feat before.

Last July, he also became the youngest player to reach the top 5 in the world since Nadal in 2005. Not to mention the fact that last year, his appearances in the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows and Roland-Garros already made he is a real prodigy.

It really feels like the changing of the guard.

Time got the better of Federer. Nadal hangs on nobly. Medvedev looks like a transitional No. 1. As for Djokovic, he is not vaccinated against youth, I guess.

Let’s watch Carlos Alcaraz very closely. He has royal blood, this little one.

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