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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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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