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Inspired teens Alcaraz and Fernandez light up US Open

  • Matt Trollope

Carlos Alcaraz and Leylah Fernandez completed thrilling upsets In back-to-back matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday to reinforce their status as stars of the future.

Alcaraz overpowered Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets before Fernandez followed him onto the same court and upstaged defending champion Naomi Osaka under lights.

US OPEN DAY 5 REPORT: Alcaraz stuns Tsitsipas in five, Osaka ousted

"Honestly the Alcaraz match gave me motivation and gave me the energy to do the same,” Fernandez revealed in an interview with ESPN. “I saw his match and I saw the way he won, and I'm like: I'm gonna do that next now!"

Fernandez looked almost certain to succumb to Osaka, who had served brilliantly all evening and broke late in the second set to earn a chance to serve for the match. But Osaka faltered, and the 18-year-old Canadian capitalised to complete a 5-7 7-6(2) 6-4 victory, sending her through to the second week at a major for the first time.

Alcaraz: "I can't believe I beat Stefanos Tsitsipas"

This is also unchartered territory for Alcaraz, and like Fernandez he recovered from a precarious position to arrive there.

He had failed to take advantage of a 6-3 3-0 lead, and found himself down 5-2 in the third after dropping the second set.

Undeterred, he snatched that third set, and later, after missing two match points on his own serve in the final-set tiebreak, converted his third with an inside-out forehand winner.

“I have not words to explain how I feeling right now. I just don't know what happened out there in the court. I can't believe that I beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic match. For me it's a dream come true,” the 18-year-old Spaniard said.

“I think when I missed the last two points with my serve, I didn't give up. I believed in me in the last point.”

Alcaraz has quickly worked his way to the brink of the top 50 after an impressive debut season at the Grand Slams – he has won matches at all of them – and after compiling a win-loss record of 38-15 in 2021.

He won three ATP Challenger titles in 2020 and had already caught the eye of several tennis pundits, who were taken with his explosive speed, huge forehand and mental strength.

The New York crowd were similarly captivated by the youngster, who embraced the biggest stage in the sport and produced some electrifying shot making.

“It was important for me the crowd. I think without the crowd I couldn't have the opportunity to play a great fifth set and be able to beat Stefanos,” Alcaraz said.

“I think the crowd was really amazing. I really loved it.”

Fernandez: "I knew I was able to beat anyone"

The crowd also embraced Fernandez, a highly-rated prospect who reached the No.1 junior ranking and won the 2019 girls’ singles title at Roland Garros.

She advanced to the third round in the Roland Garros women’s draw in 2020 and has already reached two WTA finals, winning one in Monterrey earlier this season.

But this is by far the biggest victory of the left-hander’s career, and by reaching this stage of the US Open she is projected to rise to a career-high ranking of world No.52.

“From a very young age, I knew I was able to beat anyone,” Fernandez said. “I guess today that belief came true.

“Having the crowd there supporting me and backing me up after every point, it's amazing. It gave me the energy to keep fighting, to keep working and keep running for those balls that she hit.

“I'm glad that I was able to put on a show by giving them a great match. Obviously the bonus is getting the win.”

Alcaraz goes on to face German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk while Fernandez next takes on a German with a far bigger profile in Angelique Kerber.

"I'm very excited for that draw,” Fernandez told ESPN.

“I've watched Angie Kerber play, win Grand Slams, and she's also been an inspiration to my game, a lefty game. So I'll just go out there and have fun, and do what I did today, let's say."