Carlos Alcaraz fended off a match point en route to a 2-6 7-6(4) 6-3 win over Hubert Hurkacz on Saturday to reach the Cincinnati Open final, where he will meet Novak Djokovic in a rematch of last month’s riveting Wimbledon final.
The Spanish world number one has lived dangerously since capturing his second Grand Slam title at the All-England Club, needing three sets in all his matches in Ohio, including his quarter-final win over qualifier Max Purcell.
Hurkacz, who narrowly lost to Alcaraz in the quarters of the Canadian Open, raced out to a 3-0 lead as Alcaraz mixed dazzling shotmaking with some head-scratching errors in the entertaining first set.
Hurkacz captured the opener when he broke Alcaraz for a second time and had a match point in the second set while returning serve and leading 5-4 but misfired on a forehand.
Alcaraz drew Hurkacz to the net with a drop shot and then fired a sensational cross-court winner to set up the tiebreak.
In the breaker Hurkacz once again started strong, grabbing a 4-1 lead before his 20-year-old opponent took his game to another level, pounding a forehand winner for a 5-4 lead and crushing a serve Hurkacz could not put in play to force a deciding set.
Alcaraz took control for good when Hurkacz’s forehand into the net handed Alcaraz his first break of the match at 3-1, with the Pole bouncing his racket off the court in frustration while a pumped-up Alcaraz roared along with the crowd.
A perfectly executed volley on his first match point delivered Alcaraz into his eighth final of the year and despite spending more than 10 hours on the court this week, he said he feels fresh.
“People think that I going to be tired in the final, but I feel good,” he told reporters.
“It doesn’t matter if I play a third set, long matches, I’m recovering really, really well with my physio, with my team. I feel like I’m going to play the first match of the tournament. I feel great.”
DJOKOVIC TOPPLES ZVEREV
In the night match, Alexander Zverez put pressure on Djokovic’s serve in the first game of the match but failed to convert any of his three breakpoint chances as the 23-time Grand Slam champion served his way out of trouble.
Those missed opportunities would haunt Zverez, who would not see another break opportunity in a first set, which Djokovic captured with an unreturnable serve in the tiebreak.
Djokovic broke Zverev in the opening game of the second set and it appeared that might be all he would need to secure the win but he played a poor service game at 5-4 and was broken after hitting an errant forehand.
He would bounce back quickly, however, breaking Zverev in the next game after running the tall German from corner to corner until his forehand failed to clear the net.
Despite noise from a nearby fireworks show, Djokovic managed to serve out the match on his second opportunity to set up the generational clash between the ATP’s two highest-ranked players.
“It’s amazing for the sport to have the number one and number two players facing each other in the final of a big event,” Djokovic said in an on-court interview.
“This is what I guess everybody wanted and expected at the beginning of the tournament so here we are.”
Djokovic, who won the Masters 1000 tournament in 2018 and 2020, has played Alcaraz three times.
The Spaniard won their first meeting in the Madrid semis in 2022 while Djokovic triumphed over a cramping Alcaraz in the French Open semis this year, leading to Alcaraz’s memorable five-set Wimbledon victory in July.
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