July 16, 2024

TRADE DEADLINE: –Tennis Best Player Carlos Alcaraz rejected $85.9 million offer from the …see more-NL….

WIMBLEDON — You take greatness in sports, the ability that great athletes have to rise to the moment with which most of them have to be born, wherever you find it. And everybody found it all over again with Carlos Alcaraz on Friday afternoon at Centre Court, after he had been down two sets to one to Frances Tiafoe, after he had to win a fourth set tiebreaker to keep alive his chance to win two Wimbledons in a row.

It was the fifth set against Tiafoe for him now, and perhaps the only other person in the place who fully appreciated the moment was Patrick Mahomes, a Wimbledon spectator on this day with his wife. Mahomes had to understand, and completely, what he was watching and what Alcaraz was doing with everything on the line for him again, because he seems to do the same thing all the time, playing his best when it matters the most.

Alcaraz would end up beating Tiafoe 6-2 in the fifth. The Spanish kid, heir to Rafa Nadal, has now won his last nine 5-set matches. He is 12-1 overall in matches like that, and here is what he has done in the last six, in the biggest theaters of tennis:

Took out Tiafoe on Friday. Beat Alexander Zverev 6-2 in the French Open final, also after being down two sets to one. Beat Jannik Sinner, the No. 1 ranked player in the world right now and the top seed here, 6-3 in the fifth set of the French Open semis. Beat Novak Djokovic 6-4 in the fifth set of the last Wimbledon final.

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He also beat Tiafoe 6-3 in the fifth of a wonderful U.S. Open semi in 2022, after beating Sinner 6-3 in the quarters that year. This is who Alcaraz is, so early in a career that has already seen him win majors on three different surfaces. This is absolutely where he is at his best, and was on Friday after Tiafoe was ahead of him, when it was still 0-30 on Alcaraz’s serve at 4-all in the fourth set, when it was all up against him, and he could have been six points away from being out of Wimbledon before he even made it to the second week.

But then the kid ripped a forehand that comes out of him and off his racket at a shout, followed it with a crackling backhand. Then a body serve that handcuffed Tiafoe. Finally an ace. It was 5-4. He was on his way to the tiebreaker and whether Tiafoe knew it or not, he was like a fighter just hanging on, ready to go.

The tiebreaker was 7-2 for Alcaraz and could easily have been 7-0. The last two points were won on his serve, a big second serve followed by a much bigger and louder first serve. They would go to that fifth set, where Alcaraz was 11-1 about to be 12-1, where eight in a row was about to be nine in a row, because he had gotten up again, this time on the most famous court at the most famous tournament in the world.

“I served [at] a lot of difficult moments during the fourth set. … All I was thinking is: ‘OK, fight one more ball, one more ball.’ Thinking about the next point,” Alcaraz said when it was over.  “And obviously in the tiebreak, I always tell myself that I have to go for it. If I lose it, I lose it, but I have to feel that I went for it all the time.”


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