US Open: Alcaraz is a number one in waiting, and it could happen in record time this week

By Sports Desk September 06, 2022

The career of Carlos Alcaraz could be one that takes up a great deal of space in the record books, and he is getting started early.

Not yet old enough to buy a stiff drink in a New York bar, the 19-year-old was the toast of Flushing Meadows after a late-night win over Marin Cilic that ran into the early hours of Tuesday.

That five-set win against the 2014 champion, combined with the shock exit of Rafael Nadal at Frances Tiafoe's hands, has raised expectations that Alcaraz could scoop a first grand slam title on Sunday.

Should he land that breakthrough major, there will be another feather in his cap, making Alcaraz the youngest world number one since the ATP rankings were established in 1973, and the first teenager to hold down top spot. He has climbed from 32nd at the start of the year to his current position of fourth on the list.

Nadal is poised to go to number one, which he last held in February 2020, unless Alcaraz or 23-year-old Norwegian Casper Ruud reach the title match. They are the only two players remaining in the draw who can clamber to the top ranking, which Daniil Medvedev will relinquish after his fourth-round exit to Nick Kyrgios.

If both reach the final, the champion will go to number one.

In the city that never sleeps, Alcaraz completed a 6-4 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-3 win over Croatian Cilic at 02:23 local time, three minutes short of matching the latest finish in US Open history, shared jointly by three matches: Mats Wilander vs Mikael Pernfors (1993), John Isner v Philipp Kohlschreiber (2012), Kei Nishikori v Milos Raonic (2014).

The victory on Arthur Ashe Stadium made Alcaraz the youngest man to reach back-to-back US Open quarter-finals since Australians Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall both achieved the feat before turning 19 in 1953. It was called the US Championships in that era.

Alcaraz has won a tour-leading 48 matches in 2022 and has become the youngest man to reach three grand slam quarter-finals since Michael Chang over 30 years ago.

However, he next faces a player making his own history.

Alcaraz's quarter-final opponent is a recent nemesis: Jannik Sinner, the 21-year-old Italian who beat him in round four at Wimbledon and again in the final of the clay-court event in Umag, Croatia, at the end of July.

"I played a couple of times against him," Alcaraz said. "He's a great player, really tough one. I lost twice in two months [to him] so I will have to be ready for this battle against Jannik."

There is a victory that Alcaraz could point to, having defeated Sinner on an indoor hard court at the Paris Masters last November, but they have never played on an outdoor hard court, which is where they will do battle on Wednesday.

Sinner has now reached the quarter-final stage of all four majors, becoming the youngest man to pull off that feat since a 20-year-old Novak Djokovic completed the set in 2008.

The last-eight duel with Alcaraz could be a sizzling clash, albeit Alcaraz and Sinner had some recharging to do on Tuesday after both were pushed to five sets in round four, in Sinner's case by Ilya Ivashka of Belarus. Alcaraz now has a 6-1 win-loss record in five-set matches.

Nobody remaining in the men's quarter-finals has a slam title to their name, and Alcaraz will hope he continues to have the backing of the crowd in Queens.

He said after fending off Cilic: "Of course, the support today in Arthur Ashe was crazy. After losing the fourth set, it was tough for me to come back in the fifth set, to stay strong mentally. But the energy I received today made me win."

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