Carlos Alcaraz has produced the finest win of his flourishing career, beating world number three Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(5) to reach the fourth round of the US Open for the first time.
Labelled by many as the next Rafael Nadal, the 18-year-old Spaniard has enjoyed a breakout 2021. He won his first ATP title - the Croatia Open - in July and has reached at least the second round of every Grand Slam this year.
But beating Tsitsipas in four hours and seven minutes is undoubtedly his best ever result. He has become the youngest player to reach the fourth round of the US Open since Pete Sampras and Michael Chang in 1989.
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"Without this crowd I would not have the possibility to win the match," he said on-court post-match.
"I was down at the beginning of the fourth set so thank you to the crowd for pushing me for the fifth set. Incredible.
"This is the best match of my career, the best win. For me to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas... a dream came true for me."
Alcaraz will fancy his chances of progressing from the fourth round having been drawn against German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk.
Tsitsipas came into the match having been booed in his previous match for taking extended toilet breaks. The crowd were clearly on the side of the world number 54 whose aggressive, varied brand of tennis appealed to many of the onlookers at Flushing Meadows.
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Alcaraz set the tone in the first set, breaking Tsitsipas on his first two service games before wrapping it up in 34 minutes.
After looking dazed by the opener, Tsitsipas got back into his traditional rhythm for the second and was able to break Alcaraz’s serve in games five and seven. Alcaraz had three break points when he was 5-4 down, but Tsitsipas would clinch the leveller on his second set point.
Momentum appeared to be with the Greek player bidding to win his first ever Slam. Tsitsipas surged into a 5-2 lead, but Alcaraz showed what he was made of and responded by recovering from two breaks down to force a tie-break which he convincingly won 7-2.
The boos rang around the stadium and the stopwatches were on as Tsitsipas went off for one of his infamous toilet breaks. Unlike his breaks in the previous rounds lasting up to eight minutes each, he was back on court in under four minutes.
But it perhaps created another momentum shift in the match as Alcaraz appeared to tire, while Tsitsipas was able to bagel his opponent in 27 minutes to set up a fifth set.
The atmosphere inside Arthur Ashe Stadium reached a crescendo for the decider as both players brought their A-game and played with flair and grit.
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Alcaraz looked to have the slight edge at 4-4 and was playing with more energy, but Tsitsipas held his serve to move within one game of the match.
Neither would concede and a deciding tie-break would ensue as the clock struck the four-hour mark.
Tsitsipas' serving had been superior to Alcaraz's throughout the match but the Spaniard's groundstrokes were electrifying.
It was what helped Alcaraz secure a mini break to go 3-1 up and a Tsitsipas unforced error at the net moved him to within three points of a place in the next round.
Alcaraz earnt himself three match points and he thought he finished it off at the second attempt with a lob over Tsitsipas at the net, but the ball landed agonisingly beyond the baseline.
But he did it on the third go, smashing a punishing forehand down the line to seal a seismic victory.
Image credit: Getty Images
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