Carlos Alcaraz ends Jannik Sinner’s run to seal French Open final spot in five-set epic | Tennis | Sport

Carlos Alcaraz recovered from a nightmare start to beat new world No.1 Jannik Sinner in a rollercoaster five-setter and reach his first French Open final.

And the Wimbledon champion, who only turned 21 last month, becomes the first man in the Open Era to reach Grand Slam finals on all three surfaces before turning 22.

New world No.1 Jannik Sinner started superbly and took the first set in only 40 minutes – and took the third set despite needing treatment for arm cramps.

This slowburning semi-final between the two young superstars of the game finally caught fire late in the match.

And the Spaniard found his best form on the warmest day of the tournament to triumph 2-6 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3 in four hours and nine minutes. By the end the 2002 US Open champion was almost toying with the Australian Open champion with drop shots, lobs and stunning passing shots on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Alcaraz will play the winner of the second semi-final between Alex Zverev and Casper Ruud in Sunday’s final to find the new champion. The Spaniard has won his previous two Grand Slam finals and will become world No.2 if he wins his third here.

It was only the third defeat of the year for AC Milan fan Sinner who was cheered on by Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The Italian was already guaranteed to top the rankings for the first time on Monday after defending champion Novak Djokovic pulled out with a knee injury.

Alcaraz suffered from “full body cramps” caused by tension when he lost the French Open semi-final to the Serbian superstar last year. And the Spaniard suffered a nervy start this time as Sinner took early control and raced into a 4-0 lead. It took the Wimbledon champion 20 minutes to win a game – and 23 minutes to win a point on the Sinner serve with an inside out forehand winner.

Alcaraz got one break back but the Italian immediately regained the double break after winning a stunning 16-shot rally – and took his third set point after 40 minutes when an Alcaraz drop shot hit the net.

Sinner was dictating play with his deep ground shots and took a 2-0 lead in the second set. But from there, the Italian’s high level dropped as Alcaraz finally found his game to win five consecutive games. The Spaniard took the second set when Sinner sailed a backhand long to level the match after 89 minutes.

The momentum was not with the world No.3 and he broke again at the start of the third set when he followed a booming forehand with a backhand pass. At that stage, he had won six of the last eight games.

Sinner levelled the score at 2-2 and then suffered cramping in his arm at the same stage of the match as Alcaraz last year. He then saved four break points in an 11-minute service – the longest of the match – to hold for 3-2 before getting massage on his forearm and wrist at the changeover.

Sinner was also walking awkwardly and attempted to shorten points with big hitting. The tactic worked as he won four consecutive games to lead 4-2 before taking the set with a backhand crosscourt winner.

Both superstars had come into the claycourt Grand Slam with injury problems. Sinner had to miss the Rome Masters with a hip problem. And Alcaraz is still wearing a sleeve on his right forearm after suffering an injury during a practice sessin in Monaco which ruled him out of events in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. Along with the tension, this could explain the inconsistent play.

But the fourth set finally saw both men playing at their best. The action was interrupted by a fan collapsing in the stand before Alcaraz hit a backhand winner on set point and punched the air in delight.

He broke Sinner to lead 2-0 in the decider with a forehand winner and won five consecutive games to lead 3-0. And serving for the match at 5-3, Alcaraz took his third match point when Sinner sent a sliced forehand long. He is now 10-1 in five-set matches at Roland Garros.

In his courtside interview, Alcaraz said: “You have to find the joy in suffering. That is the key. On the clay at Roland Garrso, five sets in four hours. You have to fight. You have to suffer. I have said to my team many times: ‘You have to enjoy suffering’.

“It was one of the toughest matches of my career for sure. The toughest one was against Jannick at the 2022 US Open. I think we will play many more matches against each other.”

The Spaniard added: “The third set was a little bit weird. I saw him struggling a little bit. I was cramping. Jannik as well. I learned from last year’s match against Djokovic. I was in the same position. You have to keep going. You have to stay there and keep fighting.”

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