Carlos Alcaraz Claims First Of Many Major Titles At US Open - UBITENNIS
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Carlos Alcaraz Claims First Of Many Major Titles At US Open

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When Carlos Alcaraz was marching through springtime with extraordinary majesty and a clearness of purpose, everyone intimately involved in the tennis community marveled at his self assurance, style and wide range of skills. He started peaking at Indian Wells, reaching the semifinals on the California hard courts before losing a hard fought battle with countryman Rafael Nadal amidst burdensome winds. Then he went to Miami and took the Masters 1000 title there over Casper Ruud. Shifting to the clay in Europe, Alcaraz suffered a brief setback with an early round loss to Korda in Monte Carlo, but then he went on a rampage. He was victorious at the ATP 500 event in Barcelona and then collected a second Masters 1000 crown in Madrid, upending Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverev to garner that prestigious Spanish title.

 

To be sure, Alcaraz came back down to earth for a while after his astounding run of success, falling in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros to Zverev, losing in the round of 16 at Wimbledon against Jannik Sinner, bowing in two clay court finals over the summer, and performing well below his zenith in his two hard court tournament appearances leading up to the U.S. Open.

But life changed irrevocably for the beguiling Spaniard in New York this past fortnight when he made history of the highest order. He realized the largest of dreams, fulfilled a considerable mission, and withstood challenge after challenge to start a triumphant journey at the majors that is going to last a very long time.

At 19, Alcaraz established himself as the youngest to secure a Grand Slam tournament title since Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005. He became the second youngest to win the U.S. Open after Pete Sampras in 1990. He replicated Stefan Edberg’s 1992 feat of taking three five set matches in a row en route to the Open final before succeeding in a four set final. And with his stirring run at Flushing Meadows, Alcaraz made himself the youngest ever to reside at No. 1 in the world in the ATP Rankings which began way back in 1973. Moreover, Alcaraz joined an elite cast of competitors who have taken the men’s U.S. Open title after being match point down during the course of the tournament, joining Boris Becker (1989), Sampras (1996), Andy Roddick (2003), Djokovic (2011), and Stan Wawrinka (2016) in that club.

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All in all, Alcaraz could not have asked for more. He was stretched to his limits time and again at the Open but, from one crisis to another, he responded with an inner resolve, strength and perspicacity that was summoned with singular grace and courage.

Let’s start with his performance in the final and the way he met the moment. Confronting the No. 5 seed Ruud in this title round appointment, No. 3 seed Alcaraz could not ignore the historical consequences of the outcome. He knew that they were both trying to claim a first major crown while simultaneously playing for the No. 1 ranking. Never before across the last five decades had there been circumstances like this surrounding a big occasion with two players going for a first major title with the No. 1 ranking also on the line. 

The storyline was immensely consequential this time around in New York. Winning a first major would be so much sweeter with the top ranking at stake as well, and losing would be infinitely more painful under those circumstances.

Competing under the roof in Arthur Ashe Stadium as rain fell steadily throughout the day and into the New York evening, Alcaraz gained the upper hand at the outset in front of a festive audience that was predominantly on his side. He achieved the early break for 2-1 and never lost his serve, taking that opening set 6-4. In the tenth game, he held at love. Winning the first set augured well for Alcaraz, who had been the victor in 19 consecutive matches at the majors after claiming the opening set.

But the contest started shifting away from the Spaniard beginning at 2-2 in the second set. Ruud—an outstanding percentage player with one of the heaviest forehands in the game and an underrated first serve— saved a break point with an unstoppable first delivery, holding on for 3-2. Alcaraz moved to 30-0 in the following game but lost his serve for the first time in the match as his trademark drop shot let him down a couple of times. Ruud erased a break point in the seventh game with a 127 MPH service winner, and then broke a sagging Alcaraz again to seal the set 6-2 on a run of four consecutive games.

Clearly, Ruud was finding his range and sensing that Alcaraz was mentally and physically drained after enduring so many daunting moments over the previous week.

And yet, Alcaraz moved in front 2-0 in the third and even had a break point for 3-0. Once more, Ruud produced an excellent first serve that set up a forehand winner. He held on sedulously and soon broke back for 2-2. The rest of the set was mightily fought out. At 5-6, Alcaraz was battling furiously to hold on and reach a tie-break while Ruud was going all out to break serve and put Alcaraz in a bind. That sparkling twelfth game featured five deuces and a cluster of spellbinding exchanges. Twice Alcaraz was down set point.

On the first, he came to the net off a short Ruud return but the Norwegian sent a backhand pass down the line, stretching Alcaraz out. Yet the Spaniard got his racket around the outside of the ball beautifully and angled a forehand drop volley crosscourt for a winner. The second time he was facing a set point, Alcaraz played serve-and-volley as he had done not infrequently and very successfully all match long. The brave Spaniard got well inside the service line for the forehand first volley, which he angled crosscourt. Ruud had an opening to lob over Alcaraz but the Spaniard retreated swiftly and put away the smash.

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In the ensuing tie-break, Ruud opened with an ace at 125 MPH down the T, but Alcaraz proceeded to sweep seven points in a row from there with some of his finest higher trajectory looped returns of the match and some strategic serving. Alcaraz’s deep determination and enormous composure had carried him to a two sets to one lead.

Following up on his late third set heroics, a revitalized Alcaraz was unstoppable in the fourth. In five service games, he took 20 of 28 points. With Ruud serving at 2-3, the Spaniard got the one break he needed, making one of his favorite forehand topspin lobs to force Ruud into an overhead error at 30-30 before the Norwegian erred off the backhand on break point. Down 0-30 in the seventh game, Alcaraz collected four points in a row, including two aces. Serving for the match at 5-4, Alcaraz surged to 30-0 but missed an easy overhead. But he then unleashed his second ace of the game and soon came through on his second match point with a scorching service winner out wide to the backhand.

Alcaraz prevailed 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4 in three hours and twenty minutes. He had shown off all of his versatility during those 200 minutes, weathering a mid-match emotional decline, finding renewed energy and inspiration down the stretch. Not to be ignored, Alcaraz released 14 aces in the four set contest, and half of them were in the last set. He had exploited Ruud’s deep court positioning on the returns at other stages of the match by following his serve in, but in the fourth set Alcaraz was more committed to serving bigger and earning more free points. I wish he would do that more often going forward in his career. His first serve could become a much bigger weapon and, even if his percentage declines slightly, he can back his second serve up as well as anyone in the game.

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What made Alcaraz’s triumph in the final all the more remarkable was what preceded it. He took on the inimitably charismatic Frances Tiafoe in the semifinals. Tiafoe had toppled Nadal in the round of 16 and then removed the No. 9 seed Andrey Rublev for the second straight year in New York. The Black American was playing the best tennis of his career, winning a pulsating first set from Alcaraz. It was settled in a tie-break. Alcaraz rallied from 3-6 to 6-6, only to pull a backhand wide and serve his second double fault of the sequence. Tiafoe took that tie-break 8-6.

But the 24-year-old American started fading physically and emotionally  midway through the second set, and naturally the American fans lowered their noise and expectations. Alcaraz took utter control to win the second and third sets. He broke for 2-0 in the fourth and had a couple of game points in the third game. Tiafoe broke back before Alcaraz went ahead 3-1 on another break. But somehow Tiafoe gathered strength to get back on serve again.

Nonetheless, Alcaraz had a match point with Tiafoe serving at 4-5 in the fourth. The American’s shot clipped the net cord and gave Alcaraz options. He chose the wrong one. Rather than ripping his backhand down the line with an opening, he went for the drop shot crosscourt off his backhand. Tiafoe answered with a drop shot winner of his own.

They travelled to a tie-break. Ahead 5-4, Alcaraz had a chance for a forehand winner but missed. The same thing happened when he served at 5-6. Improbably, he was taken into a fifth set by a resurgent Alcaraz. The unshakable Alcaraz simply plodded on with his usual discipline and resolution. Although Tiafoe rallied from 0-2 to 2-2, his first serve was misfiring flagrantly. He put only 10 of 30 in play across that fifth set and was broken thrice.  Alcaraz rolled on to win 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3 in four hours and nineteen minutes.

And yet, Alcaraz’s greatest escape was in a five hour, 15 minute quarterfinal against Jannik Sinner, the Italian warrior who had beaten the Spaniard on the lawns of Wimbledon and on clay over the summer. Alcaraz won the first set and had five set points in the second set of this captivating clash under the lights. On the fourth of those opportunities Alcaraz had a wide open court for a forehand passing shot but sent his shot into the net. Later Alcaraz served for the third set but failed to finish.

Astoundingly, Alcaraz was down two sets to one when he should have at the very least been ahead by that same margin. A spectacularly performing Sinner served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set and had a match point there, but Alcaraz measured his backhand return impeccably and coaxed an error from the Italian. Alcaraz opportunistically won that set but trailed again in the fifth as Sinner led 3-2, 40-15. In the end, the Spaniard somehow swept four games in a row and survived 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 in one of the best matches ever contested at the U.S. Open. It took on even loftier prominence when Alcaraz exploited his comeback and went on to win the tournament.

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And yet, Alcaraz might not have been around for that appointment if he had not held back 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic in another late night battle. Cilic broke Alcaraz in the first game of the fifth set but the Spaniard retaliated in the second game with a magnificent passing shot and eventually was victorious 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in three hours and 54 minutes.

And so Alcaraz had spent about 24 hours on court across seven matches. His last four matches consumed over 16 hours of hard competition. Alcaraz was never at his very best but he played astonishing tennis. This will be surely be his first of many major titles. He already is among the most complete players in his profession, explosive from the baseline but excellent on defense as well, capable of coming forward forcefully and volleying with authority, able to deploy the drop shot skillfully. Now he needs to place greater emphasis on the serve. Too often he has relied on variety with the kick serve and cagey use of the body serve. I hope he will start serving bigger more regularly, the way he did in the fourth set of the U.S. Open final. Alcaraz has the propensity to get through his service games more comfortably by going after the first delivery and producing more aces and service winners. At the Open, he worked exceedingly hard at times to hold and got broken too often—24 times across seven matches. With a new philosophy of relying more on bigger serves, he could alter the course of his career significantly and make himself even more invulnerable.

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The way I look at it, Alcaraz will surely win at least 15 majors in his career, but very likely more. I have felt for a while that he will set himself apart from the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Zverev, and a slumping Stefanos Tsitsipas. It may well be that a gripping rivalry develops between Jannik Sinner and Alcaraz, but the feeling grows that the Spaniard will eventually distance himself from each and all of his rivals.

Over the next two to three years, however, there will surely be some monumental skirmishes featuring Alcaraz against Djokovic, who was sorely missed in New York and too easily forgotten. They played one of the finest matches of 2022 at Madrid back in May with the Spaniard victorious in a third set tie-break. It would be a joy to to watch them play a good many matches in 2023 and 2024 as Alcaraz grows accustomed to the sport’s highest level and the prideful Djokovic rounds out one of the great careers in tennis history. There might even be a few classic Nadal-Alcaraz duels if the older Spaniard can stay healthy next year.

Over the course of the late spring and summer, Alcaraz clearly endured some growing pains, became a target for lesser players to confront and briefly lost some of his exuberance on the court. But he put aside his disappointments and performed prodigiously in New York despite all of the severe tests and some missed opportunities.

Now he stands on the threshold of sprawling importance as the game’s greatest player, ready to start winning majors in clusters, excited about defending his reputation, eager to put his diversified game on full display at the biggest arenas in front of fans who have flocked to his matches and warmed to his personality. Carlos Alcaraz has just begun to tap into his potential, and across the next decade and beyond he will be a figure of growing stature whom the public will celebrate for his multitude of virtues, a deep reverence for the game and an unmistakable sense of fair play. 

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Roger Federer Claims Happiness Over Tennis Retirement In Emotional Last Match

It was an emotional evening in London as Roger Federer said goodbye to tennis.

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Roger Federer (@LaverCup - Twitter)

Roger Federer has said that his retirement from tennis was full of joy not sadness after an emotional occasion at the Laver Cup.

 

The career of one of the greatest tennis players of all time is over after 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer played his last match of his career at the O2 Arena in London.

Federer teamed up with Rafael Nadal to take on Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock with the American pairing claiming victory 4-6 7-6(2) 11-9 to level the tie for Team World at 2-2.

However celebration was limited as the whole venue celebrated, cried and soaked up the emotion that Roger Federer’s career was over.

There were tears from Federer, his family as well as rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the end of an era was upon Tennis.

Even a performance from Ellie Goulding saw the Arena’s emotion get stronger as the Swiss maestro said goodbye to a sport he has played since he was a kid.

However despite the tears Federer claimed after the match that it was a day of celebration not sadness as he closed a big chapter of his life, “It’s been a wonderful day. I’m happy, not sad. It feels great to be here. I’m happy I made it through,” Federer told the BBC website.

“It’s been the perfect journey. I’d do it all again. Everyone’s here, the boys and girls. My wife has been so supportive. She could have stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn’t.

“Being with the guys and having family and friends, I didn’t feel the stress so much even if I felt something would go during the match. I am so glad I made it through and the match was great. I couldn’t be happier.”

After 1,750 matches in his career, Federer now faces the prospect of leaving the sport he has know for over 20 years as a professional tennis player.

But Federer gave the biggest hint yet that he wants to continue to be apart of the sport for the future.

Speaking to the press Federer claimed that he wants to travel around the world to say thanks to those who didn’t have a chance on Friday evening, “Hopefully we’ll see each other again on a different type of tennis court, somewhere around the world,” Federer was quoted as saying by the BBC website.

“I think the message from me was just making sure I relay my passion for the sport to the fans. I have no plans whatsoever, where, how, when. All I know, I would love to go and play places I have never played before or go say thank you for years to come to all the people that have been so supportive of me.

“The hard part about the Laver Cup was that tickets were already sold out. The people who maybe would have also loved to be here couldn’t make it. Maybe there is another way down the stretch we can party all together.”

An incredible career was celebrated, rejoiced and soaked in by the whole of Tennis and now Federer gets to reflect on a once in a lifetime career.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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