One thing is certain: the kid knows how to make an entrance, and the New York crowd loved it to bits. On his first-ever participation at the US Open, 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz put on a mesmerising display of aggressive tennis and sheer guts to take on, and eventually take down, world no. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3 4-6 7-6(2) 0-6 7-6(5) in 4-hours, 7 minutes in the biggest stadium in the business, the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows.
Very few analysts had ventured to predict that clay-court specialist Alcaraz could represent a risky opponent for Tsitsipas, given the difference in ranking and experience, but the young Spaniard took to the court with a clear game plan and remained committed to it, executing with great ability even after losing the fourth set by 6-0.
“Our plan was to keep rallies short – said former world no. 1 Juan Carlo Ferrero, Alcaraz’ coach, after the match – because [Carlos] is not a player for long rallies. He is very confident right now; he was able to let his shots go and he did play extremely well. He was very keen on playing Tsitsipas, it could have occurred last year at Roland Garros, and also this year in Australia, but eventually, it didn’t happen. In this tournament, he could play the match and he played great”.
In this match Alcaraz won fewer games (3) and fewer points (8) than Tsitsipas, but managed to hit 61 winners, 18 of which in an astonishing fifth set that he played lights-out after a “gameless” loss in the fourth. Eighteen is also the number of Alcaraz’ backhand winners, against only two by Tsitsipas.
“It’s one of these matches and one of these feelings where, you know, you pick up at some point of the match, you feel like you’re in control, and it doesn’t really go your way at the end, “ said Tsitsipas in a sad press conference where he hit back at the attacks and the “boos” he has been subjected to during this tournament because of his long toilet breaks. “I’m not pretending that everyone loves me. I don’t want to be — my intentions are not to be loved by everyone. Every person can choose their favorite player, pick a side. I felt that way, but I kind of have ignored it.”
He had some tough words for his colleague Alexander Zverev, who implied Tsitsipas used a toilet break to communicate with his coach-father during the final of the Western&Southern Open in Cincinnati: “When people are not really in the sport and don’t know what is happening, I mean, all these accusations have been completely false. The one in my match in Cincinnati, which was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Yeah, that was — I don’t know what to say. I mean, that really shows the level of the person that said it.”
The crowd adopted Alcaraz as their favourite from the beginning of the match and lifted the Spaniard during the final part of the match. “I think without the crowd I couldn’t have the opportunity to play a great fifth set and be able to beat Stefanos. I think the crowd was really amazing”.
Tsitsipas subsequently told the Greek media that the match turned on very few points, most likely in the third set when he could not convert the double break advantage and had three set points when serving at 5-2. “I did not learn the lesson from Cincinnati,” he said, remembering the 4-1 lead in the final set during the last match with Zverev at the Western&Southen Open. But he also admitted he had never seen anyone hitting returns that powerful: “I don’t know how much harder I need to hit my return in order to apply pressure. But he felt to be dealing with it really well, comfortably, hitting winners after the first return of mine, just being so much in control, which was surprising, especially in the fifth set. I didn’t expect him to raise his level so much, especially after having lost the fourth set this way. He was a completely different player.”
Alcaraz is now edging closer to the Top 50 in the ATP ranking and will face qualifier Peter Gojowczyk (no. 141 ATP) from Germany to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinals.
Team World One Win Away From Victory in Laver Cup
Team World take a huge 10-2 lead over Team Europe heading into the final day
After losing the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team World look set to win the event for a second time as the event reaches its conclusion tomorrow.
Team World Captain John McEnroe was thrilled with the day’s results but warned against complacency: “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”
American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both earned straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz, while Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils.
“I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe after his singles victory. “I played really well tonight. Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”
After winning his third singles match in three appearances at the Laver Cup, Fritz was also motivated to do well:
“Yesterday, all the guys played really well. I felt that and wanted to come out on court and show what I can do. That definitely motivated me. Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game. I feel like my record in team events is really strong because I have a team cheering for me. I get pumped up. I’m excited to play for them. It just adds more pressure and fire to it. I think I play better in those situations.”
The doubles was a typically dynamic and feisty affair, and after the match Shelton was full of praise for his partner:
“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him ‘Laver Cup Felix’ because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”
Auger-Aliassime returned the compliments: “The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for team-mates. Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done.”
Casper Ruud, meanwhile, beat Tommy Paul for Europe’s only points so far.
Matches on the final day are worth three points each – meaning that Team Europe would have to win all four remaining matches to prevent Team World from winning the trophy.
T. Fritz def A. Rublev 6-2, 7-6
F. Tiafoe def H. Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3
F. Auger-Aliassime & B. Shelton def H.Hurkacz & G. Monfils 7-5, 6-4
C. Ruud def T. Paul 7-6, 6-2
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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