Carlos Alcaraz Upset Stefanos Tsitsipas

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For years, tennis has asked herself how she’s going to move forward as its biggest stars head to the exits.

If the first week of the US Open is any indication, the 18-year-old named Carlos Alcaraz and Emma Raducanu may have just dived into a place where they don’t belong yet but clearly do.

“Vamonos!” Spain’s Alcaraz, passing through the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday with their howls, experienced the sadness of the tournament by knocking out Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece, beating the five set classics 6-3, 4-6 and 7-6(2). , 0-6, 7-6(5).

It was only a few months before Tsitsipas, with his dirty blonde hair and philosopher-prince talks about tennis as a form of self-expression, appeared as the apparent heir to the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger. Federer.

But ever since he took a two-set lead over Djokovic in the French Open final, his goodwill has been foiled by inconsistent play, statements that the Covid-19 vaccine is unnecessary, and a never-ending series of mid-match toilet breaks. this goes on and on. His father, Apostolos, who also served as his coach, was in his corner on Friday, but not many others.

After a few games on the field courts, Alcaraz entered Arthur Ashe Stadium like a middleweight boxer intent on hitting his opponent’s jaws fast. He never.

When Alcaraz, known in tennis circles as “the next Rafa”, especially in Spain, ripped Tsitsipas’ diagonal court forehand in game three, he stopped, looked at the sign, and nodded. Are you kidding me?” laugh.

Alcaraz was just getting started. When he broke Tsitsipas’s serve for the third time to clinch the first set, the seats in the biggest stadium in the sport were starting to fill with thousands of fans pretending to be on a first-name basis with Alcaraz for years. .

Funny thing about young and little-known tennis players like Alcaraz and Raducanu, who were both well outside of the top 200 a year ago – they’re developing followers like indie bands. Field courts at major tournaments work like small nightclubs. As news of a player whose hits and stage presence is unmissable spreads, the stands and the stands surrounding these outfields go beyond capacity with fans who will talk about catching Alcaraz or Raducanu up close in a tiny venue years later. The way early adopters of Talking Heads still talk about those nights at Max’s Kansas City in the East Village in the 1970s.

That was the mood for Raducanu’s game Thursday on the tennis hinterland known as Court 10 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the last court before the South Gate exit.

Raducanu, whose parents are Romanian and Chinese, was born in Canada before moving to England at the age of 2. Before Wimbledon, he was little known in England. There, on his Grand Slam debut, he entered week two of the tournament with his fearless, clean kicks and unwillingness to give up a chance to put pressure on his opponent. looks like the first balls.

His Wimbledon run came to a dramatic end in the last 16, and he was suddenly short of breath playing for the first time on the No. 1 court in front of 12,000 screaming fans. He withdrew from the match, fell back 3-0 in the set and turned England against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.

In an interview on Thursday, Raducanu said what bothered him was the physical—simple fatigue caused by a series of long marches against a mature opponent—that what many assumed was not a panic attack caused by the pressure of a more intense spotlight than he could. they guessed.

“I’ve been playing at a very high level for days and I wasn’t used to it,” Raducanu said after his second-round win against China’s Zhang Shuai. “We had 20-shot rallies and I couldn’t control my breathing. The doctors advised me not to continue. I hated retiring.”

Since then, Raducanu has played and won many matches at tournaments in Northern California, Chicago, and the US Open, where he won 10 sets in a row, and won three in the qualifying tournament.

Tall, slender and athletic in the most elegant way. He stays close to the ground as he moves around the court, chasing any ball that has the least chance of reaching it. While waiting to receive the serve, he crouches like a shortstop waiting for a sharp line drive.

On Thursday afternoon, Raducanu named the overflowing crowd in Court 10. Just beyond the fence, drums began to beat as he served to clinch the match against Zheng. These were not just any drums. They were the rumbling sounds of the Howard University brass band performing on the field all day. Even when Raducanu was about to throw his ball into the air to serve, they played intermittently.

Raducanu said that he was confused, thinking that the drums were celebrating him. When it was over, a group of bloated fans asked for autographs and selfies over the fence. Before leaving, he almost forgot to take the racket that he dropped on the corner of the court at the last point, forcing everyone.

Sara Sorribes of Spain will move to a larger stage on Saturday for her third round match against Tormo.

“I’m ready to play in anything, even the park at the back of P17,” he said, referring to the outside practice pitches at Flushing Meadows.

Alcaraz was more than ready. His war against Tsitsipas lasted more than four hours. After allowing Tsitsipas to even win the game in one set, Alcaraz was down 5-2 and made two service timeouts in the third set and Tsitsipas forced him on the field like a man playing a kid. A youth aside, it was a moment when most players played against the world’s third ranked player.

Alcaraz did just the opposite. He blasted his forehand and backhand hits from the lines and kept Tsitsipas chasing drop shots and topspin lobes even while they were tied at 5-5. Soon Tsitsipas started talking to himself at almost every point. Alcaraz clinched the set in the tiebreak with a drop shot and a scorching pass shot for Alcaraz, the somewhat unconscious jump he made after hitting the winners.

He made his fist into a windmill as the crowd exploded. Only Alcaraz’s coach, former world number 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, remained in his seat. Forgive him, he was here before. Tsitsipas left the field for another of his signature toilet breaks and went on a thrilling booze round.

The break paid off for Tsitsipas, who beat the next six games and took the fourth set 6-0. This was another moment the youth could fade.

Instead, he called for a massage on the field, and on the fifth set, the crowd shouted, “Carlos! Carlos! Carlos!”

Once there, Alcaraz continued to blast, leading with his jaw. A striker hit by Tsitsipas in the elbow and sent into the net gave Alcaraz three game points. He needed each one, missing a topspin lob 6-4 by an inch, before a final winner in the line completed the exit with one last blast from the crowd as they collapsed onto the field.

“The best game of my career,” Alcaraz said.

Almost as good as the Talking Heads show at Max’s in 1976.

Tennis goes like this.

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