Carlos Alcaraz outlasts Jannik Sinner in latest U.S. Open finish in history

Carlos Alcaraz US Open
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This was a match that would not end. Should not end, one might say. Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, two of the brightest young stars of men’s tennis, traded shots of the highest quality and countless momentum swings across five sterling sets for 5 hours, 15 minutes until Alcaraz finally won the last point at 2:50 a.m. on Thursday, the latest finish in U.S. Open history.

It was “only” a quarterfinal, no trophy at stake, yet was as taut a thriller as this year’s tournament has produced or, likely, will, a tour de force of big cuts on the full sprint and plenty of guts, concluding as a 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 victory for the No. 3-seeded Alcaraz, a 19-year-old from Spain.

“Honestly,” said Alcaraz, who saved a match point in the fourth set, “I still don’t know how I did it.”

He also used words such as “unbelievable” and “amazing.” No hyperbole there.

“This one will hurt for quite a while,” said No. 11 Sinner, a 21-year-old from Italy. “But tomorrow, I will wake up — or today, I will wake up — trying to somehow (take away) only the positives.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

When the 382nd, and final, point was over, Sinner and Alcaraz hugged each other. A handshake at the net would not suffice.

Alcaraz reached his first Grand Slam semifinal and is the youngest man to get that far at the U.S. Open since Pete Sampras won the title at 19 in 1990.

Alcaraz has a chance to move up to No. 1 in the rankings next week, and will face No. 22 Frances Tiafoe of the United States on Friday. The other men’s semifinal that day is No. 5 Casper Ruud of Norway vs. No. 27 Karen Khachanov of Russia.

This match began Wednesday evening at about 9:35 p.m. and easily surpassed the previous mark for latest time of finish at the U.S. Open, which had been 2:26 a.m., shared by three matches.

Alcaraz has been working overtime in New York: His five-set victory over 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round wrapped up at 2:23 a.m. on Tuesday.

“I always say you have to believe in yourself all the time,” Alcaraz said. “The hope is the last thing that you lose.”

After his much more mundane, three-set victory over Andrey Rublev in a quarterfinal that finished at about 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Tiafoe was rather prescient when asked about Alcaraz and Sinner.

“I just hope they play a marathon match, super-long match,” Tiafoe said with a smile, “and they get really tired come Friday.”

Not only did this one run late, it ran long: Only a 5-hour, 26-minute match between Stefan Edberg and Michael Chang in 1992 took more time at the U.S. Open.

Asked afterward how he was feeling physically out there against Sinner, Alcaraz began with a quick response: “I felt great.”

Then he paused, and smiled, before continuing: “Well, probably at the end of the match, I was (at) my end.”

The clock already was past 2 a.m. when Coco Gauff, the 18-year-old American who was the runner-up at the French Open and bowed out in the U.S. Open quarterfinals on Tuesday, spoke for anyone paying attention to Alcaraz vs. Sinner when she tweeted: “this match is insane. I leave at 6am for the airport but I refuse to sleep and miss this. #Sinner #Alcaraz”

Still, even with thousands and thousands of empty seats, there were enough who remained on hand to make as much noise as a full house at times. Both players would wave their rackets or motion with their arms to encourage the fans to get even louder. And, naturally, the fans would oblige.

“Could have finished in three sets. Could have finished in four sets. Could have finished in five sets,” Sinner said. “We both wanted to win, for sure. We both tried our best.”

It was as back-and-forth as could be. The highlights were too many to list. Just one: Alcaraz won one point after extending a rally by wrapping his racket behind his back to make contact with the ball. One more: Alcaraz fell onto his backside, then sprung up to race to smack a backhand that won that point.

After taking the first set, Alcaraz held five set points in the second — but Sinner saved them all.

In the third, Alcaraz broke to lead 6-5 and served for that set — but Sinner broke to force a tiebreaker that he dominated.

In the fourth, it was Sinner who served for the match at 5-4, even coming within a point of victory there — but Alcaraz broke and wound up pushing what already was a masterpiece to a fifth.

And in the fifth, after another memorable shot — a running backhand passing winner that sailed just past Sinner’s outstretched arm — earned a break point and a chance for a 5-3 lead, Alcaraz put a finger to his ear.

He would convert that, then serve it out. When the end did arrive, Alcaraz dropped to his back, his chest heaving, and covered his face with his hand.

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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