Carlos Alcaraz defeats Frances Tiafoe in 5 sets at Wimbledon

LONDON — Carlos Alcaraz was forced into another Grand Slam fifth set, this time at Wimbledon, this time against good friend Frances Tiafoe. And as he usually does under such circumstances, no matter how much trouble he was in, Alcaraz charged to the finish.

Alcaraz avoided a surprise exit and defeated Tiafoe 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 on Friday to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon in a match full of moments of brilliance in the 3-hour, 50-minute match.

“It’s always a big challenge to play against Frances. As I’ve said many times, he’s a very talented player. Really difficult to play against. And he showed that again,” Alcaraz said. “It was really difficult for me to adjust my game, to find solutions, to try to put him in trouble. But I’m really happy that I did it in the end.”

In front of a Centre Court crowd that included Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, and under a retractable roof that amplified the sounds of rackets-on-balls, groans and cheers, third-seeded Alcaraz was outclassed for long stretches by No. 29 Tiafoe.

But Alcaraz was better at the business end, improving to 12-1 in his young career in fifth sets — including victories in the semifinals and final at the French Open after trailing 2-1 in sets en route to the title last month. Tiafoe went to 6-13 in five-setters.

Tiafoe failed to pull off a surprise victory for someone who arrived at Wimbledon with a torn ligament in his right knee and a negative season record.

It came close.

The 26-year-old American was two points away from serving for the win, reaching love-30 on Alcaraz’s serve at 4-all in the fourth set. But Alcaraz recovered to claim the next four points, capped by an ace at 130 mph (210 km/h).

Alcaraz then dominated the ensuing tiebreak to take a 5-0 lead.

“I served [at] “I had a lot of tough moments in the fourth set. … I was just thinking, ‘Okay, fight one more ball, one more ball.’ I was thinking about the next point,” Alcaraz said. “And of course, in the tiebreak I always tell myself to go for it. If I lose, I lose, but I have to feel like I went for it the whole time.”

The final set was more one-way traffic. Tiafoe held on in the opening game, but that was about it. At 1-all, Alcaraz got the last break he needed by hitting a cross-court backhand passing shot that Tiafoe let fly past, landing right on the baseline and spraying some chalk.

Elsewhere in the men’s rankings, No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 12 Tommy Paul won their respective third-round matches on Friday.

Dimitrov defeated Frenchman Gael Monfils in three sets: 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, while Paul also defeated Alexander Bublik in three sets: 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Most of the attention was focused on Alcaraz and Tiafoe, two familiar faces putting on a show. Alcaraz gave on-the-run, back-to-the-net tweeners and pointed to his ear to ask audience members to be louder; Tiafoe also interacted with fans, waving at them to get louder.

When they found out they would be facing each other, the two exchanged some negative comments in a friendly manner. Afterwards, they hugged each other and chatted on the internet.

Tiafoe retired from playing last month during a match at the Queen’s Club event due to a knee injury. In 2024, he was only 13-14 before Wimbledon, losing to players he called “clowns” but did not name names.

After Tiafoe, who was wearing a black sleeve on his right knee, slipped several times and fell to the ground on Friday, Alcaraz walked around the net to the other side of the court to check on him or offer a hand to help him up.

There were fewer of the kind of long, drawn-out exchanges they engaged in at Flushing Meadows a little less than two years ago — when Alcaraz defeated Tiafoe in a five-setter in the U.S. Open semifinals — largely because of the faster grass that tends to end points quickly. Still, there was plenty of shared excellence, including a 22-stroke point that Alcaraz won to help take a 4-2 lead in the first set.

Tiafoe broke back immediately and quickly had the set in hand. Alcaraz recovered in the second set. Then it was Tiafoe’s turn to play better in the third set. And finally it was Alcaraz who came out.

Alcaraz will now continue his pursuit of a second successive title at the All England Club and his fourth Grand Slam trophy in total, including the recent triumph in Paris which saw the 21-year-old Spaniard become the youngest man to win a major championship on all three surfaces.

This report used information from the Associated Press.

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