Carlos Alcaraz reaches Wimbledon semifinals for first time
LONDON–It was billed as the battle of the 20-year-olds but Carlos Alcaraz pulled rank on his childhood buddy Holger Rune as he doused the Dane’s fireworks to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time with a 7-6(3) 6-4 6-4 victory on Wednesday.
The two tyros, who were born six days apart, were contesting a men’s Wimbledon quarter-final that for the first time in the professional era featured two players aged under 21.
Despite his youth, Alcaraz is already at home among the elite of men’s tennis and produced the form that has carried him to the top of the rankings by never allowing Rune to gain the upper hand, no matter how many flashy shots the Dane conjured.
“It’s amazing for me, a dream since I started playing tennis. It’s a dream to be able to play a semi-final here,” Alcaraz said after setting up a semi-final showdown with Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev on Friday.
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“I am playing at a great level, I didn’t expect to play such a great level on this surface. For me, it is crazy,” added the Spaniard who has been more at home on clay and hard courts.
After saving a break point in the opening game of the match, Alcaraz put on a majestic performance in front of Britain’s Queen Camilla to end Rune’s hopes of becoming the first Danish player in 65 years to reach the All England Club semi-finals.
Sixth seed Rune certainly won most of the crowd-pleasing points, whether it was a tweener between the legs or a stupendous reflex volley he hit at the net after Alcaraz had dashed back to the baseline to retrieve a lob.
But the top seed, already in the Grand Slam winner’s club after triumphing at the U.S. Open last year, refused to get flustered and kept winning the points that mattered.
The look of utter disgust on Rune’s face when he hit a double fault to go 4-3 down in the first set tiebreak summed up his feelings.
Alcaraz pounced on that mistake to win four points on the trot and let out an ear-splitting scream in the direction of his box as he sealed the set with a thundering service return winner.
Rune tried his best to get the crowd behind him, as he raised his arms to urge the fans to pump up the volume on Centre Court.
But seconds later he was left red-faced and staring into the turf in disbelief when he spectacularly smashed the ball into the net despite having an open court at his disposal.
That handed Alcaraz his first break point of the match and the Spaniard gleefully pocketed the game with a yet another scorching service return.
That wobble from Rune was enough for Alcaraz to run away with the set and from then on he proved to be unstoppable, with the Spaniard breaking again in the fifth game of the third.
After Alcaraz failed to convert his first three match points, including a double fault on one of them, he sealed victory when Rune slapped a service return long.
The two friends, who grew up playing doubles together as baby-faced boys, shared a warm embrace at the net before the Spaniard leaned back and let out an almighty roar into the skies – showing just how much this win meant to him.
“At the beginning I was really nervous playing in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, but even more against Rune,” said Alcaraz, who has already won 12 titles in his young career.
“Someone the same age as me playing a great level. It was tough to play against him but once you get into the quarter-finals there are no friends.
“You have to be focused on yourself and I think I did great in that part.”