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Alcaraz upends No. 3 Tsitsipas in US Open; Osaka out
Until now, 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz has exhibited enough promise and precociousness to make people think he eventually could succeed Rafael Nadal as Spain's top tennis player.
New York: Until now, 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz has exhibited enough promise and precociousness to make people think he eventually could succeed Rafael Nadal as Spain's top tennis player.
On Friday at the U.S. Open, with a dramatic five-set victory over No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alcaraz showed why he's been getting so much attention already.
With a tenacity to match his talent, and boosted by a rowdy Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd a tad tired of Tsitsipas' penchant for taking lengthy breaks between sets, Alcaraz won 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 0-6, 7-6 (5) in just over four hours to become the youngest man in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows since a couple of guys named Pete Sampras and Michael Chang in 1989.
"I just don't know what happened out there in the court," the 55th-ranked Alcaraz said after what was only his 10th Grand Slam contest. "I can't believe that I beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic match. For me, it's a dream come true."
His was not the only significant victory for an 18-year-old against a top player: Later in that same arena, 2018 and 2020 champion Naomi Osaka tossed and spiked her racket as she let her lead slip away in what turned into a 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4 loss to Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez.
Afterward, a teary-eyed Osaka said she is considering taking another hiatus from the sport; she pulled out of the French Open and went on a mental health break after saying she gets anxiety when she speaks to the media and has dealt with depression for years. "This is very hard to articulate," she said Friday.
"Basically, I feel like I'm kind of at this point where I'm trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don't know when I'm going to play my next tennis match."
Both Alcaraz and Fernandez made sure during on-court interviews to thank the fans, who are making up for last year's absence — no spectators were allowed because of the coronavirus pandemic then, but it's full capacity now — with plenty of noise. They booed Osaka for turning her back to the court and holding up action in the final game.
They chanted "Let's go, Carlos!" during his win and rose to their feet for ovations at various points, including right before the concluding tiebreaker, with Alcaraz waving his arms to request, and receive, even more support.
"He can be a contender for Grand Slam titles," said Tsitsipas, the runner-up at the French Open this year. "He has the game to be there."
In earlier action, three women with multiple major titles each — Garbiñe Muguruza, Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber — pulled out three-set victories to advance to Week 2. Muguruza got past Victoria Azarenka, a three-time U.S. Open runner-up including a year ago, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 and next faces French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.
Kerber, who won the title in New York in 2016, defeated 2017 champ Sloane Stephens 5-7, 6-2, 6-3. And Halep was a 7-6 (11), 4-6, 6-3 winner over Elena Rybakina.
Alcaraz showed off so many skills against Tsitsipas. Big cuts off both wings, so big that this was the assessment offered by Tsitsipas: "I've never seen someone hit the ball so hard." And that was backed up by the stats, none more remarkable than the one showing that Alcaraz finished with 45 winners off forehands and backhands, compared with 14 for Tsitsipas.
There was more. So much more. (AP)