U.S. Open: Carlos Alcaraz outlasts Frances Tiafoe, into historic final

Carlos Alcaraz
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At a U.S. Open that has at times looked like a guard-changing, Carlos Alcaraz faces Casper Ruud in a men’s final with unprecedented stakes: each eyeing his first major title and to seize the No. 1 ranking for the first time.

Alcaraz, at 19, can become the first teenage man to win a major since Rafael Nadal‘s first of a men’s record 22 titles at the 2005 French Open. He can also become the first teenage No. 1 in the world since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973.

He dropped Frances Tiafoe in Friday’s semifinals 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3, denying the first American men’s major finalist since 2009.

“I gave it everything I had, too good for Carlos tonight,” Tiafoe told a crowd that included Michelle Obama. “I gave everything I had the last two weeks. I came here wanting to win the U.S. Open. I feel like I let you guys down. This one hurts.

“I’m going to come back and I will win this thing one day.”

Alcaraz had already survived back-to-back five-setters that ended between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. to become the youngest men’s major semifinalist since Nadal at the 2005 French. He was also the youngest U.S. Open men’s semifinalist since Pete Sampras won the first of his 14 majors in 1990.

“In a semifinal of a Grand Slam, we have to give everything we have inside,” Alcaraz said. “I can see the No. 1 in the world, but at the same time it’s so far away.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

Ruud, the 23-year-old French Open runner-up, can make the single biggest jump to No. 1 in the world — from seventh in the rankings going into the U.S. Open. He dispatched Russian Karen Khachanov 7-6 (5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 — including a 55-shot rally to win the first set — in the early semifinal.

No Norwegian man or woman has been No. 1 in the ATP or WTA rankings since they were introduced in 1973 and 1975, respectively. Unlike Alcaraz, Ruud has major final experience — getting crushed by Nadal in the French Open final in June, winning just six games.

“After Roland Garros, I was of course extremely happy but at the same time humble enough to think that could be my only final in a Grand Slam in my career,” said Ruud, whose goal coming into the year was to make one Grand Slam quarterfinal. “In Roland Garros, there was royal families there watching. That was a little bit new experience for me. I hope I can be more ready for that on Sunday.”

Norway has been on a tear in international sport over the last two years.

At the Tokyo Olympics, it won gold medals in the men’s 400m hurdles (Karsten Warholm‘s world record) and 1500m (Jakob Ingebrigtsen), men’s beach volleyball (Anders Mol and Christian Sorum) and men’s triathlon (Kristian Blummenfelt, who this year won the World Ironman Championship).

It then won a record 16 Winter Olympic gold medals at the Beijing Games.

Erling Haaland made FIFA’s best 11 male soccer players for 2021, the first Norwegian to do so. Viktor Hovland ascended to No. 3 in the world men’s golf rankings, highest-ever for a Norwegian.

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

Kenenisa Bekele
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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

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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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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