Defending Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz comes back to beat Frances Tiafoe in the third round


LONDON — Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz came back to eliminate Frances Tiafoe 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round on Friday in an entertaining match between two pals that was filled with moments of brilliance and a series of momentum swings.

The third-seeded Alcaraz was outplayed for stretches by No. 29 Tiafoe but surged to the finish and improved to 12-1 for his career in fifth sets. Tiafoe fell to 6-13 in that category.

Tiafoe was not able to pull out what would have been a surprising victory for someone who arrived at Wimbledon with a sprained ligament in his right knee and a losing record this season.

He sure came close, though.

The 26-year-old American was two points away from getting the chance to serve for the win, getting to love-30 on Alcaraz’s serve at 4-all in the fourth set. But Alcaraz steadied himself and came through, as he so often does, taking the next four points, capped by an ace at 130 mph (210 kph).

He then dominated the ensuing tiebreaker, grabbing a 5-0 lead with another ace, this one at 127 mph (205 kph).

The final set featured more one-way traffic. Tiafoe held in the opening game, but that was pretty much that. At 1-all, Alcaraz got the last break he would need by smacking a cross-court backhand passing shot that Tiafoe let fly by, then watched as the ball landed right at the baseline, spraying a bit of chalk.

In front of a crowd that included Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, both players were ready to provide a show. Alcaraz delivered on-the-run, back-to-the-net ’tweeners and pointed to his ear to ask spectators for more noise; Tiafoe interacted with the fans, too, waving to them to get louder.

These two good-naturedly traded some mild trash talk when they found out they’d be facing each other, and they hugged at the net when it was over.

After Tiafoe, who wore a black sleeve on his right knee, slipped and went down to the ground a couple of times, Alcaraz walked around the net to the other side of the court to check on him.

Both smile frequently in the heat of the moment on court and did so repeatedly Friday. Both celebrated key points with a raised or shaken fist.

There were fewer of the sorts of lengthy, extended exchanges they engaged in at Flushing Meadows a little less than two years ago — when Alcaraz defeated Tiafoe in a five-setter in the U.S. Open semifinals — mostly owing to the speedier grass that tends to end points quickly. Still, there were moments of shared excellence, including a 22-stroke point that Alcaraz won to help lead 4-2 in the first set.

Tiafoe broke right back on the way to owning that set. Alcaraz righted himself in the second. Then it was Tiafoe’s turn to play better in the third. And, ultimately, it was Alcaraz who came out on top.

Now Alcaraz will continue to pursue a second consecutive title at the All England Club and his fourth Grand Slam trophy overall, including a triumph at the French Open last month that made the 21-year-old Spaniard the youngest man to win a major championship on all three surfaces.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis



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