Carlos Alcaraz dodges bullet to beat Frances Tiafoe in Wimbledon five-set thriller

Carlos Alcaraz returns the ball in his match against Frances Tiafoe at Wimbledon. Picture: Glyn Kirk / AFP

Carlos Alcaraz returns the ball in his match against Frances Tiafoe at Wimbledon. Picture: Glyn Kirk / AFP

Published Jul 5, 2024


Carlos Alcaraz survived a brutal encounter with close friend Frances Tiafoe at Wimbledon on Friday to keep his title defence on track with a 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 win.

The Spanish third seed was out-hit and out-fought for large periods of the match on Centre Court by his US opponent but found an extra gear when he needed to in a match lasting nearly four hours.

Alcaraz, bidding to become only the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back, beat Novak Djokovic in a thrilling final last year.

He will face America's Brandon Nakashima or 16th seed Ugo Humbert of France in the fourth round as he seeks a fourth Grand Slam title at the tender age of 21.

Tiafoe, seeded 29th, put Alcaraz's serve under intense pressure in the opening set, carving out six break points and taking two of them to win it 7-5.

But the Spaniard slashed his error count in the second set, breaking twice to level the match under the roof on a damp day in London.

Alcaraz fended off another clutch of break points from Tiafoe in the third set but cracked in the seventh game and the American, combining brutal power with finesse, made the crucial breakthrough, whipping up the crowd as he sealed the set.

The champion was in deep trouble at 0-30 in the ninth game of the fourth set but won four straight points to stay on serve.

An energised Alcaraz stepped up a level in the tie-break, powering his way to a 5-0 lead and cupping his ear to the crowd as he pulled level at two sets apiece.

An early break in the decider for Alcaraz emphatically underlined the change in momentum and he repeated the feat to take a 4-1 lead.

Tiafoe held serve to delay the inevitable but Alcaraz served out to love, sealing the deal with a clever drop shot before the two friends hugged at the net.

The two men were meeting for the first time since Alcaraz came out on top in an epic five-set match in the semi-finals of the 2022 US Open on the way to his first Grand Slam title.

Tiafoe won their only other meeting on clay at Barcelona in 2021, when Alcaraz was a 17-year-old wild card.