Alcaraz 3-2 Tiafoe* (* – denotes next server)
Not Tiafoe’s best game in terms of returning serve. Alcaraz holds at love.
Funny thing – we’ve only had two break points each way in this match, even no neither player is overpowering the other on the serve. They’re doing just enough to gain a slight edge in the ensuing rally and keeping the advantage from there.
Alcaraz 2-2 Tiafoe* (* – denotes next server)
Tiafoe comes back from that thriller with a few wayward serves. A double fault makes it 0-30. He’s lucky to survive the next point when Alcaraz tries to volley the ball at an acute angle but makes a little bit too much contact, and it goes wide. He can’t return the next serve, and it’s 30-30. Tiafoe forces Alcaraz wide, and the Spaniard does well just to lob it back into play. Tiafoe lets it bounces, then hits an impressive smash from pretty far back in the backcourt.
How best to follow that up? Drop shot. Alcaraz can’t even get near it. Tiafoe holds after a little scare.
Alcaraz 2-1 Tiafoe* (* – denotes next server)
Remember when every between-the-legs shot was a SportsCenter Top 10 highlight? It’s getting routine now, and in this case, it comes when Alcaraz drives Tiafoe back from the net. Tiafoe duly does what gridiron people would call a “hike,” and Alcaraz is waiting to put it away. 15-15.
Tiafoe hits a big shot, approaches the net and easily finishes. 15-30.
Alcaraz fights back to 30-30, but then Tiafoe moves up several feet to challenge his second serve, and it’s all Alcaraz can do to get his racket to the ball a couple of times in a brief rally. Break point.
Tiafoe anticipates the drop shot. But Alcaraz makes it too good, and Tiafoe can’t redirect it back in play. Deuce.
Big serve, easy rally. Ad-Alcaraz.
The next point is full of shots that absolutely should not been returned but are. Tiafoe drives one toward the corner, and Alcaraz goes to full stretch to hit a backhand that flies past Tiafoe, who manages to race back and hit it. The rally continues for a few more shots until Alcaraz finally dinks one off the net cord, and Tiafoe can’t get it back.
An uncomfortable hold for Alcaraz, but both players come up smiling, like a couple of UFC fighters who think they have a shot at a Fight of the Night bonus.
*Alcaraz 1-1 Tiafoe (* – denotes next server)
Let’s see – can I find any Twitter content that has the point from the first set with all the …
Tiafoe holds at love. That was quick.
Alcaraz 6-7 1-0 Tiafoe* (* – denotes next server)
Phew! What an amazing finish to a set that featured a couple of highlight …
And Alcaraz holds at love. That was quick.
Tiafoe serves. Fault. Second serve is good, and Tiafoe hits some nicely sliced diagonal shots to earn another set point. 7-6.
Alcaraz serves. Fault.
DOUBLE! Did NOT expect that.
The set took 64 minutes, by the way, so we’re on pace for another match of more than five hours if we go five sets.
Alcaraz serves. Tiafoe works him over into a corner, but Alcaraz returns it well, and Tiafoe’s winner attempt goes long. 6-4 Tiafoe.
Alcaraz serves. Ace down the center. 6-5 Tiafoe, and the American will serve on his last chance to win the set (for now).
Tiafoe serves. Fault. Alcaraz’s noises when he hits are now going two syllables. It apparently works, with a shot forcing Tiafoe to scramble and miss the return. 6-6.
Alcaraz serves, and it’s another good one, forcing Tiafoe to hit long. 4-3 Tiafoe.
Tiafoe serves. Ace, just hugging the center line. 5-3 Tiafoe.
Tiafoe serves. Goes for that center line again but finds net. Second serve induces a wide return. 6-3 Tiafoe, triple set point. The crowd is again enthused.
Tiafoe serves. Another near-ace – the ball travels so fast on these serves that I can’t tell. Alcaraz pounces on the second serve but hits long. 3-1.
Tiafoe serves. It’s a big one, and Alcaraz’s return drifts long. 4-1 Tiafoe.
Alcaraz serves. No pressure. At least, he doesn’t seem to feel it, playing aggressively (and loudly) to win a short rally. 4-2 Tiafoe.
Tiafoe serves. Ace.
Alcaraz serves. Let, fault … serve-and-volley winner. 1-1
Alcaraz serves. Barely misses an ace. Then double faults. 2-1 Tiafoe, and the American towels off.
Alcaraz 6-6 Tiafoe (going to tiebreaker)
Alcaraz seems to know exactly when to come to the net. A volleyed drop shot makes it 30-0. But Alcaraz makes a couple of unforced errors to again bring Tiafoe within two points of the set.
Then another miss. Break point. Set point. The crowd rises.
And Alcaraz gets enough of his serve to force Tiafoe to hit wide. Tiafoe barely touches the next serve.
The next point might set some of record for drop shots in one point. Tiafoe hits a sort-of off the return. Alcaraz hits a great one, but Tiafoe gets to it. Alcaraz has to scramble backwards to get one going past him, and it’s another drop. And another … look, I lost count, you’re going to have to see the highlight later (I’ll check Twitter), and we’re going to the tiebreaker.
*Alcaraz 5-6 Tiafoe (* – denotes next server)
Alcaraz plays the perfect drop shot … except that it’s just a little short. Tiafoe wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere near it.
A good second serve prompts a long return from Alcaraz, and it’s 30-0. Then it’s a big-time winner down the line – ESPN says it’s 102 mph – and a fist pump to make it 40-0. Alcaraz hits long on the next point, and Tiafoe holds at love.
Put a pin in this game. This could give Tiafoe a lot of confidence after a couple of shaky games on his serve. Alcaraz will serve to stay in the set.
Alcaraz 5-5 Tiafoe* (* – denotes next server)
Alcaraz is either the most precise player in the world or is getting very lucky with these shots on the line. At 15-15, he botches a volley at the net, but it catches a sliver of the line. A double fault, the first of the match, makes it 30-30.
Tiafoe safely returns the next serve, and that gives him a chance to earn set point. But Alcaraz outfoxes him and freezes Tiafoe with a winner down the line. Alcaraz wins the next one nicely, and he holds.
*Alcaraz 4-5 Tiafoe (* – denotes next server)
An exchange of shots barely going out gets us to 15-15, and then Alcaraz pounces to go up 15-30.
Then comes something rarely seen in professional tennis – an outright whiff on a service return, as Tiafoe puts on some sort of wicked spin or possibly telekinetic shift. At 30-30, Tiafoe hits one that dings the net cord and drops straight down on the other side. Alcaraz finds the net on the next point, and Tiafoe holds. These service games aren’t entirely comfortable, though.
Alcaraz 4-4 Tiafoe* (* – denotes next server)
For once, Alcaraz does not land his shot on the line, missing by millimeters, and Tiafoe is up 0-15. Alcaraz slams the door from there.
Only one ace in this match so far. A bit of a change from other matches we’ve seen.
One thing to watch: Tiafoe is 12-for-13 on his first serve. He’s 6-for-13 on his second.
*Alcaraz 3-4 Tiafoe (* – denotes next server)
Uh oh. Alcaraz wins the first point with a solid winner, and Tiafoe rushes a shot into the next for 0-30. Tiafoe bounces back with a 134-mph ace, but he hits long on the next point to give Alcaraz double break point.
Tiafoe makes efficient work of the first of those points. Alcaraz steps forward to attack Tiafoe’s second serve, but he’s a bit too eager and hits long.
Again, Tiafoe escapes with an unforced Alcaraza error off his second serve. Then he lands his first, gets to the net and smashes. Vital hold for the American there.
Alcaraz 3-3 Tiafoe* (* – denotes next server)
The proverbial rush of blood to the head strikes Alcaraz on the first point, as he hits long. Tiafoe is a little unlucky on the next two points and indeed in the rest of the game, with Alcaraz keeping Hawk-Eye busy with some shots hitting various lines.
*Alcaraz 2-3 Tiafoe (* – denotes next server)
One unforced error in an otherwise routine hold for Tiafoe.
OK, I’ll quit the fashion commentary for a while.
Alcaraz 2-2 Tiafoe* (* – denotes next server)
Are these guys wearing identical shirts? It’s not completely obvious because the backs are white, while the fronts are mostly orange-ish.
Pretty sure I just saw Joel McHale.
Alcaraz holds at love. Not too much to analyze here. Big servers winning their serves.
*Alcaraz 1-2 Tiafoe (* – denotes next server)
While I was listing celebrities, Tiafoe won the first three points of the game. A smash attempt goes awry after that, but Tiafoe holds with a forehand winner.
Alcaraz 1-1 Tiafoe* (* – denotes next server)
Alcaraz is hitting deep in these rallies. Too deep. Twice. 15-30.
But the Spaniard wins the next rally, and Tiafoe’s effort at a cross-court return at 30-30 just barely goes wide. The next serve can’t be returned, and that’s it.
Michelle Obama is sitting with Jill Vedder’s (Eddie’s wife), says rock fan John McEnroe. Tennis legend Stan Smith is sitting next to retired NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. This would be an amazing dinner party.
*Alcaraz 0-1 Tiafoe (* – denotes next server)
Tiafoe needs his second serve on the opening point, and Alcaraz makes quick work of it. Tiafoe lands the next two, forcing errors with each one.
Next up: A point with more angles than a 12-sided die, ending with an Alcaraz shot in which Hawk-eye shows that a tiny, minuscule, very small piece of the ball caught the line. Tiafoe responds with a solid winner, but he hits ever so slightly wide on the next point for deuce.
The next two points, though, are won with well-placed, powerful serves. Tiafoe holds his nerve and holds the serve.
Tiafoe will serve. He smiles. Here we go …
Prematch interviews: Tiafoe has a lot of respect for Alcaraz. Well, yeah.
Valid question for Alcaraz: How do you feel after more than nine hours on the court this week? “There’s no time to be tired,” he says with a smile.
Hoops wear …
Still no indication that we’re getting close to this match.
So how is everyone today?
We have not yet seen player introductions. Maybe Alcaraz is taking a well-deserved nap?
Who’s No. 1?
Current No. 1 Daniil Medvedev surrendered the top place when he lost in the round of 16 to Nick Kyrgios. No. 2 Alexander Zverev isn’t competing in New York because of an injury. We know Rafael Nadal will not be returning to the top spot in the rankings, thanks to Tiafoe’s win over the 36-year-old Spaniard in the round of 16 here.
If Alcaraz wins out, he’ll be the youngest ever to be No. 1. If he loses here, Casper Ruud will be the first Norwegian to top the rankings. (Those factoids are from the ATP Tour itself.)
Ruud defeated Karen Khachanov this afternoon in a tidy three-hour match to reach the final, so if Alcaraz wins tonight, it’ll be one of those rare head-to-head matchups to decide the king of the mountain.
Ready for a matchup of an unstoppable force vs. a guy who has spent more time on the court this week than a lot of us have at work?
Frances Tiafoe of the USA! USA! USA! (trademark Guardian commentators) brings his uninhibited enthusiasm to Arthur Ashe Stadium again Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, who got here by winning a quarter-final match that lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes. That was his second straight five-setter, following a Round of 16 match that lasted nearly four hours.
Alcaraz, a rising star at age 19, is ranked fourth in the world. Tiafoe is 26th. But Tiafoe will have home court and has won the only matchup between the two – a 2021 encounter on clay in Barcelona.
Beau will be here shortly. In the meantime here’s Tumaini Carayol’s look back at Carlos Alcaraz’s epic quarter-final win over Jannik Sinner.