Carlos Alcaraz defeats Frances Tiafoe in 5 sets at Wimbledon

LONDON — Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz came back to defeat Frances Tiafoe 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon on Friday in an entertaining match between two friends, full of moments of brilliance and a series of changes of momentum.

The third-seeded Alcaraz was outclassed by No. 29 Tiafoe for a long time, but came through and improved his career-high to 12-1 in the fifth set. Tiafoe fell in that category to 6-13.

Tiafoe failed to pull off the surprise victory as he arrived at Wimbledon with a sprained ligament in his right knee and a negative season record.

But he came close.

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

He then dominated the ensuing tiebreak, taking a 5-0 lead with another ace, this time at 205 km/h.

The final set was more one-way traffic. Tiafoe held on in the opening game, but that was about it. At 1-all, Alcaraz got the final break he needed by hitting a crosscourt backhand passing shot that Tiafoe let fly past, then watched as the ball landed squarely on 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 put on a show. Alcaraz threw on-the-run, back-to-the-net “tweeners” and pointed to his ear to ask spectators to make more noise. Tiafoe also interacted with fans, waving at them to get louder.

When they found out they would be facing each other, the two good-naturedly exchanged some mild criticism and afterwards they hugged at the net.

After Tiafoe, who was wearing a black sleeve on his right knee, slipped several times and fell to the ground, Alcaraz walked around the net to the other side of the court to check on him.

Both often laugh in the heat of the moment on court and did so repeatedly on Friday. Both also celebrated important points with a raised or shaken fist.

There were fewer of the kind of long, drawn-out 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 — largely because of the faster grass that tends to end points quickly. Still, there were moments of shared excellence, including a 22-stroke point that Alcaraz won to help take a 4-2 lead in the first set.

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

Alcaraz will now look to pursue a second straight title at the All England Club and his fourth Grand Slam trophy in total, including a victory at Roland Garros 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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