Carlos Alcaraz battled past Marin Cilic in five sets in a near 2.30am finish local time to ensure there will be a new male Grand Slam champion come Sunday at the US Open.
Cilic was the last major winner standing in the men’s draw after Rafael Nadal’s exit to Frances Tiafoe, but Alcaraz downed the 2014 US Open champion 6-4 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-4 in 3h53 to advance to the quarter-finals.
Alcaraz is the highest seed remaining in the draw, and the Spaniard takes on No. 11 seed Jannik Sinner for a place in the semi-finals.
One of Andrey Rublev or Tiafoe will await in the last four, while the other half of the draw sees Nick Kyrgios take on Karen Khachanov in the last eight, and Matteo Berrettini face Casper Ruud.
US OPEN MEN’S QUARTER-FINALS
Nick Kyrgios (23) v Karen Khachanov (27)
Matteo Berrettini (13) v Casper Ruud (5)
Jannik Sinner (11) v Carlos Alcaraz (3)
Andrey Rublev (9) v Frances Tiafoe (22)
Asked how he found the drive to come through in five sets, Alcaraz replied on-court afterwards: “Honestly? I don’t know yet, but I believed in myself all the time. Marin was playing unbelievable, but the support was crazy. Without you guys it wouldn’t be possible.”
And on facing Sinner, who Alcaraz lost to at Wimbledon and then the Croatia Open earlier this year, he added: “I played a couple of times against him. A great player, I lost twice [to him] in the last two months so I will have to be ready for this battle. It’s going to be really tough.”
With Aryna Sabalenka needing three sets and almost two-and-a-half hours to oust Danielle Collins in the women’s fourth round, Alcaraz and Cilic did not walk out onto Arthur Ashe until just before 10.30pm local time.
That made a late finish inevitable under the roof, and the pair trading breaks early on was an indication of the myriad momentum swings this match would have.
From 2-0 down, two straight breaks helped Alcaraz take command of the first set, and he was able to close it out 6-4 after 51 minutes.
He broke immediately to 15 to take charge of the second set, but Cilic was clinical in breaking twice with just one opportunity needed in each game to lead 3-1.
Cilic comfortably closed out that set to level the match, with the clock striking midnight as the pair then sat down for a breather.
Come the third set, few early break chances arose, but after Alcaraz spurned one in the eighth game, he converted his third in the 10th, breaking Cilic to snatch the set 6-4.
A fraught fourth set followed, with both players failing to convert three break-point chances in one game, Alacaraz in the third and then Cilic in the sixth.
Alacaraz then missed two more opportunities before Cilic broke in the ninth, and then the Croat saved two more in the 10th before forcing a decider with his first set point.
It was anyone’s guess at the start of the fifth, but it was advantage Cilic when be broke straight away.
Alcaraz somehow found another level, though, breaking twice – the second time to love – before serving his way to victory.
The match finished just before 2.26am, falling just shy of the record late finish at the US Open, and now Alcaraz will set his sights on Sinner.
Sinner needed five sets himself to overcome the unseeded Ilya Ivashka, eventually coming through 6-1 5-7 6-2 4-6 6-3.