He ended up being the Night King again. Too good, too fast, too strong. To disgust Frances Tiafoe by dint of finding the lines and bringing back each of her accelerations. Even the public no longer knew what to do, torn between this American semi-finalist and this Spanish troublemaker with the face of a kid but with the nerves of an old veteran.
And when he ended up frankly choosing “Big Foe”, in the heart of an incandescent fourth set, the Spaniard managed to recover despite a misplaced match point. Without trembling, he went to win the fifth set (6-7 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 6-3) to afford his first Grand Slam final and, perhaps, in the event of a title against Casper Ruudthe world No. 1 spot.
To believe that Alcaraz likes it. Against Marin Cilic already in the eighth, he had scrapped five sets. Same thing in the quarters against Jannik Sinner. Friday night, he seemed on track to wrap it up in four sets and afford an almost quiet evening in New York. Wasted effort.
Time spent on court by Alcaraz in the last three matches. By comparison, Casper Ruud completed his eighth, quarter and half in 8:56.
The first set conceded – with, all the same, the best point of the round (see video below) – he took over Tiafoe. We said to ourselves that the Spaniard might have heavy legs after his two previous fights but it was he who showed himself to be more and more lively when the American declined gradually and then very frankly.
8-0 on tie-breaks for Tiafoe
The second set dropped, Tiafoe thus lost the first eight points of the third and totally suffered the game. In nine games straddling the third and fourth acts, he only won one and gave up his service three times, he who did not hadn’t lost it once yet. It was when he finally took that of Alcaraz (0-2 in the fourth) that this match was completely revived. The Spaniard was no longer the only one to win the spectacular points and the American, hilarious after a winning return which gave him the break, made the Arthur-Ashe roar.
He trembled for the first time but, on the amortization attempted on match point by the protege of Juan Carlos Ferrero, he distilled a retro counter-amortization which caused a huge eruption. The two men were separated in the tie-break and, in this game, Tiafoe was unbeatable, even by an inspired Alcaraz. The 26th in the world had just won the first seven he had played in this tournament, he added an eighth (an Open era record at Flushing Meadows) and celebrated as if he had won the match.
A double-edged final
The sequel was harder and he gave up his entry service. He came back to score before again abandoning his face-off on a game punctuated by a sublime lob from Alcaraz which nestled just in front of the line. Defeated, Tiafoe committed a double fault on the break point and let his opponent definitely fly away.
At 19, the Spaniard will try to win a first Grand Slam title. Facing him, Casper Ruud will be in the same position. And the result of the match will determine the identity of the new world No. 1. The winner is guaranteed to sit on the throne. A unique configuration that promises a special final for this US Open 2022.