Lexander Zverev had declared he was back and ready to face the best in the world after defeating Jannik Sinner in five sets on Tuesday.
Instead, he turned out to be faltering as Carlos Alcaraz easily outlasted the German in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory at the US Open.
Zverev has endured a long battle to return to his best since a horrific injury at the French Open last year. Three sets against the world No. 1 suggested he still faces a mountain to climb, at least against Alcaraz.
The defending champion in New York became a crowd favorite when he made his debut as a teenager.
They praised his entry into Arthur Ashe Stadium, the fist bumps, the smiles and, above all, the way he threw punches that belied the fact that he was only 20 years old.
As has been the case throughout the Big Three era, the identities of the two men’s finalists were predictable. It’s hard to find anyone in New York expecting anything other than another final between Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic.
The disappointment for Zverev is that he didn’t play badly and enjoyed the first break point of the game in the seventh game but couldn’t capitalize on any of his chances.
Such is Alcaraz’s ability to regain control of a match that could be slipping away from him that he managed a break point himself in the very next game, grabbed it and played out the first set with confidence.
Understandably, Zverev seemed somewhat shocked that an even set had slipped away from him so quickly on a hot night in the Big Apple.
Try as he might, from that moment on he never really felt like he would maintain his career head-to-head lead against Alcaraz, which has now dropped to three apiece.
In the second set, Alcaraz had two break chances and grabbed both, leaving his opponent looking disheartened, knowing the mountain he had to climb to get back into the fight.
To his credit, he took on the Spaniard and briefly threatened to send the match into the fourth set. But again Alcaraz had a chance to break.
Afterwards, Alcaraz said: “I feel so comfortable playing in his place. I love New York. I am at my best in this dish. I’m ready to have a great fight against Daniil Medvedev.”
https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/tennis/us-open-carlos-alcaraz-novak-djokovic-alexander-zverev-b1105411.html US Open: Carlos Alcaraz moves closer to Novak Djokovic’s final with straight sets victory over Alexander Zverev