Carlos Alcaraz surged into his first Grand Slam final and gave himself a chance to become No. 1 at age 19 by endingrun with a 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3 victory on Friday night.
No. 3 Alcaraz moved ahead by grabbing nine of 10 games in one stretch and could have ended the semifinal when he held a match point in the fourth set. Tiafoe saved that and forced a fifth set by improving to 8-0 in tiebreakers during the tournament.
Showing no signs of fatigue from his 5-hour, 15-minute quarterfinal win that ended at 2:50 a.m. on Thursday, Alcaraz was better down the stretch, taking four of the last five games.
Tiafoe managed two stunning upsets before losing to Alcaraz, topplingin the fourth round, and Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals.
“I love to show the world what I can do,” Tiafoe said after defeating Rublev. “I just want to go out there and try to give the crowd what they want — and that’s me getting the win.”
And Tiafoe had a special fan in the audience Friday: Michelle Obama, who had a seat in the front row behind the baseline in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The former first lady gave Tiafoe a thumbs-up and a shout-out when she was shown on the video screens.
After the match, he got to speak with Obama and they walked out through the tunnel from the court together. He said goodbye before meeting up with his supporters that again included Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal.
“Obviously there was a lot of who’s whos in there tonight,” Tiafoe said. “Obviously we all know what she means. Crazy getting to meet her after.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable night.”
Before Tiafoe, Andy Roddick was the last U.S. man to get to the semifinals in New York, losing to Roger Federer in the title match 16 years ago. Roddick also was the last man from the country to win any Grand Slam singles championship, taking the 2003 U.S. Open.
Alcaraz will face No. 7 Casper Ruud for the championship on Sunday with so much on the line: The winner will become a major champion for the first time and lead the rankings next week.
Ruud, a 23-year-old from Norway, claimed a 55-shot point to cap the opening set of his semifinal and wound up beating Karen Khachanov 7-6 (5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.