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Alcaraz battles past Tiafoe in five-set Wimbledon thriller

Alcaraz battles past Tiafoe in five-set Wimbledon thriller

Spaniard improves fifth set record at majors to 12-1

Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz survived a major scare on Friday at Wimbledon, where he rallied from the brink against Frances Tiafoe to win a third-round thriller 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2.

At the US Open in 2022, the Spaniard clawed past Tiafoe in a five-set epic en route to the US Open title. Meeting for the first time since in west London, both players once again put on a show in one of the matches of the season.

Under the roof on Centre Court, both produced moments of magic, with extended cat-and-mouse rallies the order of the day. With little to separate them, Alcaraz raised the tempo and power off his groundstrokes in the closing stages to seal victory in three hours and 51 minutes, improving to 12-1 in fifth sets at majors.

Alcaraz has won his past 10 matches at The Championships, having defeated Novak Djokovic in the final last year. However, the third seed’s title hopes hung in the balance for large periods on Friday afternoon when Tiafoe produced one of his best performances of the season to push the Spaniard to his limit.

The American arrived at SW19 having won consecutive matches at just two tour-level events this year (Delray Beach, Houston). However, he looked back at the level that helped him reach the semi-finals in New York in 2022 and win two tour-level titles in 2023, demonstrating great court craft to pull the World No. 3 around.

He could not quite maintain his level in the fifth set against Alcaraz, who let out a roar and raised his arms to the sky after his absorbing win. Into the fourth round at SW19 for the third consecutive year, Alcaraz will next face Frenchman Ugo Humbert or American Brandon Nakashima.

The Spaniard is chasing his third trophy of the season and fourth major title overall. Last month, he triumphed at Roland Garros to become the youngest man in history to win a major on all three surfaces.

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In a lively first set, breaks were exchanged at the mid-way point before Tiafoe outplayed Alcaraz in the closing stages. The American red-lined the ball from the baseline to break and was tight on serve, winning 81 per cent (17/21) of first-serve points in the set to lead. Alcaraz responded emphatically in the second set, though, raising his intensity to claw his way back. The highlight of the set came on set point when the 21-year-old thundered a backhand passing winner crosscourt.

Alcaraz fended off two break points to hold in the first game of the third set and another in the third game, but could not hold on forever, with Tiafoe breaking for 4-3 when Alcaraz could only push a tweener lob long. Tiafoe raced through his next two service games to gain control of the clash and then demonstrated great court craft in the fourth set to push Alcaraz to a tie-break.

The Spaniard produced his best tennis in the breaker, ripping winners off both wings and fist-pumping in between points to level. The former Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF champion then gained an early break in the fifth set when he blasted a backhand winner and from there he stormed clear to victory.

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