Carlos Alcaraz makes tennis history after defeating Jannik Sinner in French Open semi final

Carlos Alcaraz wrote himself into the tennis history books after defeating world number one Jannik Sinner in a five-set thriller.

The 21-year-old Spaniard defeated Sinner 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the French Open final for the first time in his career.

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The feat made him the youngest man to reach a Grand Slam final on all three surfaces, surpassing Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg, Jim Courier and Rafael Nadal, all of whom did so at the age of 22.

“It’s definitely one of the hardest matches I’ve played,” Alcaraz said. “The hardest I’ve played in my short career was against Jannik.”

Alcaraz has won both of his previous major finals – Wimbledon last year and the 2022 US Open.

He will face fourth seed Alexander Zverev on Sunday, where victory would see him head to the Australian Open next January in pursuit of a career Grand Slam.

Both Alcaraz and Sinner, 22, arrived in Paris under an injury cloud, having gradually found their best level over the course of the tournament to set up a meeting that was billed as the match everyone wants to see.

Alcaraz’s historic feat has divided the tennis world with a heated debate erupting over the standard of play between the two stars.

Tennis writer Carole Bouchard wrote: “I think Rafa won the first round today. The same for Novak with a torn meniscus.”

Tennis great Paul McNamee wrote: “Look, Alcaraz won the match, but it wasn’t a particularly high standard…nothing like the level that RG showed all last year until he cramped against Djokovic. Something is wrong, maybe a hand? He has 2 days to fix his forehand, which was the royal forehand of right-handers.”

But ESPN’s Patrick McEnroe wasn’t hearing it and firmly shut down the “nonsensical” debate on social media.

“Please… Enough nonsense that the current Rafa or the injured Novak could easily beat Sinner/Alcaraz today. You really have absolutely no idea,” he wrote.

The ninth chapter of a fascinating rivalry that represents the future of men’s tennis was the youngest Grand Slam semifinal pair since Andy Murray defeated Rafael Nadal at the 2008 US Open.

It was their first Grand Slam since a spectacular five-set quarterfinal two years ago in New York, and while it may not have been as thrilling, it was no less thrilling.

Alcaraz, who was badly hampered by cramp in last year’s semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic, said playing Sinner was like running a marathon and that the Spaniard chased a lot early on.

Australian Open winner Sinner, who has lost just twice all year, broke the game three times as he dominated the first set, mixing impenetrable defense with sharp groundstrokes when he went on the attack.

Alcaraz came alive late on as Sinner struggled to maintain his incredibly high standards from the opening set, allowing the Spaniard to claw his way back into the match.

“You have to find joy in suffering,” Alcaraz said, admitting he had prepared for a long race on a picture-perfect day in Paris.

“That’s the key. Even more here on clay. Long rallies, four hours of matches, five sets. You have to suffer. You have to enjoy it.”

Alcaraz briefly took the lead early in the third set, but Sinner, who was dealing with a forearm cramp, regained the momentum to take the third set.

The tension didn’t just get to Sinner as Alcaraz tried to shake off his own spasm attack.

“I learned from last year’s match against Djokovic when I was in the same position as today,” Alcaraz said.

“I know you have to be calm at this point, you have to keep going because the spasm will go away. You have to stay there and fight.” Both players steadied on serve in the fourth, without a single break point on offer until Alcaraz’s scintillating backhand brought the low point.

He didn’t flinch and sent the match into a decisive position with the winner on the open court.

Alcaraz’s approach to disrupt Sinner, coupled with timely shooting, allowed him to land a critical shot in the second game of the fifth set.

“Fourth and fifth were great tennis,” Alcaraz said. “I waited for my moment until I took it.”

Alcaraz’s French Open final against Zverev is on Sunday and kicks off at 11pm (AEST).

– with AFP

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