Alcaraz defeats Tiafoe in 5 sets, advances to face Ruud in U.S. Open final
Ruud eliminated Khachanov in other men's semifinal on Friday
Carlos Alcaraz and Frances Tiafoe engaged in a high-level, high-energy spectacle of a back-and-forth semifinal at the U.S. Open — no point over when it seemed to be, no ball out of reach, no angle too audacious.
One sequence was so stuffed with "What?! How?!" moments by both men that Arthur Ashe Stadium spectators were on their feet before it was over and remained there, clapping and carousing, through a replay on the video screens.
Ultimately, enough of the winners went Alcaraz's way, and too many of the mistakes came from Tiafoe's racket. And so it was Alcaraz who surged into his first Grand Slam final — and, in the process, gave himself a chance to become No. 1 at age 19 — by ending Tiafoe's run at Flushing Meadows with a 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3 victory on Friday night.
Fifth-set king <a href="https://twitter.com/carlosalcaraz?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@carlosalcaraz</a> is into the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USOpen?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USOpen</a> final! <a href="https://t.co/CamMVDVJxw">pic.twitter.com/CamMVDVJxw</a>—@usopen
Alcaraz appeared to seize control by grabbing nine of 10 games in one stretch and could have ended the evening when he held a match point in the fourth set. But Tiafoe, who is ranked 26th, saved it and soon was yelling, with some colourful language mixed in for emphasis. Soon after that, Tiafoe was forcing a fifth set by improving to a U.S. Open-record 8-0 in tiebreakers.
Still, Alcaraz showed no signs of fatigue despite playing a third five-setter in a row — including a five-hour, 15-minute quarter-final win that ended at 2:50 a.m. on Thursday, the latest finish in tournament history — and was better when he needed to be, taking four of the last five games.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/carlosalcaraz?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@carlosalcaraz</a> gave everything he has <a href="https://t.co/vI42l9txpR">pic.twitter.com/vI42l9txpR</a>—@usopen
Now No. 3 Alcaraz will face No. 7 Casper Ruud for the championship on Sunday with so much on the line: The winner will become a major champion for the first time and lead the rankings next week.
Either Ruud's six-place jump will represent the biggest move ever to No. 1 or Alcaraz will become the youngest man to get to the ATP's top spot since the computerized rankings began in 1973.
Alcaraz and Tiafoe were both making their major semifinal debuts and offered an exceptionally entertaining performance for a little more than a set, and a little more than an hour, at the start, then again for the latter portion of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth.
Tiafoe, a 24-year-old from Maryland who eliminated 22-time Grand Slam champ Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, played to a sellout crowd of more than 23,000 that included former first lady Michelle Obama, often asking for — and receiving — more noise. No surprise, given he was the first American man in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows in 16 years.
Spain's Alcaraz is popular around the world, widely recognized as a future star of the sport, and he is now the youngest U.S. Open men's finalist from any country since Pete Sampras won the trophy at 19 in 1990.
Ruud ousts Khachanov
Ruud claimed a 55-shot point to end the first set of his U.S. Open semifinal while building a big lead against Karen Khachanov and held on for a 7-6 (5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 victory earlier on Friday that put him in his second Grand Slam title match of the year.
When it ended, spectators in Arthur Ashe Stadium called out his name, "Ruuuuud!" — and it sounded sort of as if they were booing, rather than saluting.
The 23-year-old from Norway was the runner-up to Nadal at the French Open in June.
Casper Ruud completes the road to the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USOpen?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USOpen</a> final.<br><br>See you Sunday, <a href="https://twitter.com/CasperRuud98?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CasperRuud98</a>. <a href="https://t.co/GWd8LbHMuk">pic.twitter.com/GWd8LbHMuk</a>—@usopen
All four men's semifinalists were making their debuts in that round in New York. That had not happened at the event since 1881, when it absolutely had to: That was the inaugural edition of what was then known as the U.S. Championships.
To mitigate the effect of Khachanov's serves, Ruud would stand way behind the baseline to return, then look to dominate exchanges from the baseline. Ruud used flawless footwork for side-to-side defence and found openings to deliver deep groundstrokes that could finish off points.
He came up with occasional brilliance, such as the over-the-shoulder volley winner that put him ahead 6-3 in the tiebreaker. Moments later came the point of the match, on Ruud's third opportunity to end that set. It lasted 75 seconds and contained 19 more strokes than the second-longest rally of these entire two weeks, culminating with a down-the-line backhand by Ruud that drew a netted forehand in response.
Ruud broke to go up 2-1 in the second set and was on his way there. After Khachanov surged late in the third to make things slightly more intriguing, Ruud broke to lead 2-1 in the fourth, ripping a down-the-line forehand winner from the doubles alley.
Casper Ruud knows chances for a Grand Slam 🏆 don't come easy.<br><br>He'll get his second shot in 2022 on Sunday. <a href="https://t.co/eMYNS5E3gY">pic.twitter.com/eMYNS5E3gY</a>—@usopen
This marks the latest step in a real move forward for Ruud in Grand Slam play.
He came into this year with a record of just 14-13 at the sport's most important events — 3-4 in New York, where his best previous showing was a third-round appearance in 2020 — then needed to sit out the Australian Open in January after twisting his ankle in practice the day before the tournament began.
Since then? He's 13-2 at the majors in 2022.
Salisbury, Ram repeat as men's doubles champions
Earlier on Friday, Great Britain's Joe Salisbury slammed down an overhead to clinch another U.S. Open men's doubles title with American partner Rajeev Ram.
There wasn't much of a celebration beyond that. It didn't feel right to the British player while there's so much sadness at home following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
"I think it didn't feel appropriate to be overly celebrating or at least showing that too much, because obviously everybody back home and around the world is in mourning at the moment, and it's a very sad time," Salisbury said Friday.
"Definitely feels a bit strange to be in this situation. Obviously we are very happy with the success that we have had, but, yeah, it's a sad time at the same moment."
Salisbury and Ram became just the second team to repeat as men's doubles champions at the U.S. Open in the professional era with their 7-6 (4), 7-5 victory over Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski.
Salisbury wore a black band around the left sleeve on his shirt, while Skupski, who is also British, wore a black ribbon on his chest. Both teams had played semifinal matches Thursday and learned of the Queen's death on TV shortly after Salisbury and Ram had finished off their victory.
"I haven't really seen much of the news. But incredibly sad for obviously the country and obviously the world for what she did," Skupski said.
Salisbury and Skupski are likely to team up to play doubles for Britain next week in Davis Cup. They could face Ram, who is on the U.S. roster that is in the same group.
Salisbury ensured he will remain the No. 1 player in the doubles rankings with his 17th straight U.S. Open win, combining men's and mixed doubles.
This one made he and Ram, the top-seeded team, the only pair other than Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde to go back-to-back in New York since 1968. The Hall of Fame duo from Australia won in 1995 and 1996.
McNally, Townsend advance to women's doubles final
New partner, same destination for Caty McNally.
McNally earned a second straight trip to the women's doubles final by teaming with fellow American Taylor Townsend for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 12th-seeded team of Caroline Dolehide and Storm Sanders on Friday.
The 20-year-old McNally went on to pair up in New York with Townsend, who returned to the tour this year after giving birth to a son in March 2021.
The duo lost the first set in 26 minutes and fell behind 2-0 in the second before mounting their rally.
McNally and Townsend will play the No. 3-seeded team of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in Sunday's final.