Carlo Alcaraz continued his march towards the youngest world No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP rankings in the early hours of Tuesday morning as he left the 2014 champion behind Marin Cilic in the fourth round of the US Open.
Alcaraz outlived the former world no. The match ended at 2:23 am, marking the fourth-latest finish in tournament history.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” Alcaraz said of how he won the match. “It was pretty, pretty tough at the start of the fifth set [being a] break down. But Marin played amazing. I believe in myself all the time. Of course, support is in today Arthur Ashe [Stadium] was crazy It wouldn’t be possible to win this match tonight without you guys, so thank you for the support tonight, thank you.
“I would say 100 percent of the energy I put into the fifth set is thanks to you. It was amazing.”
For a moment, Alcaraz’s tournament hopes and dreams of reaching 1st place on September 12 were dashed. Cilic caught fire from the baseline and worked his way back into the match to force a decider and take a break lead early in the fifth set. But Alcaraz showed his fighting spirit and immediately hit back before storming the finish after three hours and 53 minutes.
“After a fourth set [when] I had a lot of chances… it was hard for me to come back in the fifth set to stay mentally strong,” said Alcaraz. “But as I said, the energy I received today led me to victory.”
With Daniel Medvedev and Rafael Nadal Losing in the last two days, the stakes have been raised for Alcaraz in New York. The teenager isn’t just aiming for his first Grand Slam title – he’s also trying to rise to the top of men’s tennis.
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If the Spaniard reaches the final and Kasper Ruud not, Alcaraz will rise on Monday after the world number one US Open. If Ruud makes it to the final and Alcaraz doesn’t, the Norwegian will rise to the top. If both men make the championship game, the winner will leave with the trophy and world No. 1. Alcaraz is ranked 2nd in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
Alcaraz focused on the player in front of him, Cilic, in the fourth round and he had to. The Spaniard withstood a barrage of booming groundstrokes from the Croatian in the early hours and found some of his best tennis courts when it mattered. Alcaraz fell to his knees to celebrate his victory and both players shared special moments with the remaining spectators inside Arthur Ashe Stadium and thanked the fans on the way off.
The momentum of the game changed early in the fourth set as Alcaraz started returning Cilic’s serve from the back wall, allowing the 33-year-old to score the first big hit in rallies. Alcaraz struggled not to defend against his aggressive opponent.
When the 19-year-old missed a forehand to claim a break in the fifth set, Cilic seemed to take control. The Croatian has plenty of experience in difficult moments and was the only Grand Slam champion still in the draw.
But Alcaraz’ determination never wavered. The third seed kept fighting and it paid off as he found an incredible angle to serve again. From there, he never looked back and found his way through the duel, hitting 28 winners and converting six of his 18 break points.
“I’ve played against him a couple of times. He’s a great player, a really, really tough player,” said Alcaraz, who is 2-1 behind his ATP Head2Head series. “I’ve lost twice in the last two months, so I have to be ready for this fight against Jannik.”