“Talking now, it’s easy, no? On court, it’s different”: Sinner and Alcaraz on what made the difference…

After their epic quarter-final, both Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner acknowledged that in the end it was just a question of pushing one’s luck one last time.

Alcaraz / Sinner, US Open 2022 Alcaraz / Sinner, US Open 2022 ; © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

After a 5h15 match that has finished at 2.50am, we’re not even talking momentum switches at this point, but micro switches and blinking just at the right or wrong time. Jannik Sinner has to unfortunately be the one who blinked one time too many at the very wrong times: had he converted that match point at 5-4 in the fifth, or had he converted his two game points on his serve at 3-2 in the fifth…

This might play in his brain for a while, but in the end those are just two highlights of a match that went so far physically and emotionally that it became impossible to require a cold hand at all times. So Sinner blinked, and he lost. Alcaraz kept pushing, kept putting the pressure on and the return in, didn’t blink on one last point and he won.

Both players basically said that after their battle: it wasn’t a matter of forehands and backhands by the end of it, just of closing one’s eyes and pray for the best. And maybe in those moments, Alcaraz’s self-belief and intensity did the difference. But for the defeated Sinner it was obviously very tough and heartbreaking to try to find where he could have made the difference, where he might have lost the plot.

“I don’t know” : the first answer by Sinner

“I don’t know”, was his first answer as to what has maybe made the difference in the end. He’d need an outside look to be sure, that’s why he added “I have to talk with my team first.” But he’s too smart not to know deep inside where it may have gone wrong for him or at least to touch on one aspect that betrayed him. “For sure I didn’t serve that well in the third set. I remember I had easy forehand on 3-2 when I was serving 40-30 in the fifth. There are some key points. Obviously, when you play for more than five hours, there are many key points. Some of them he took and some of them I took. But I don’t know, we both wanted to win for sure. We both tried our best.”

Thing is, it’s easy to talk about what one missed at a crucial moment when you’re not the one who has to nail it on match point for a Grand Slam semi-final in the middle of a thriller where adrenaline and stress keep meeting and fighting. “For sure I could have played it better. Talking now, it’s easy, no? When you’re on the court, it’s different. You feel a little bit more pressure. You feel the momentum also. It’s part of the game, no? I was serving quite well until that moment. Especially in the tough moments, I served well. In the fifth set, I was also a break up. I couldn’t find a way to close it out, and that’s it.”

As for Alcaraz, he didn’t really need to dig inside his brain to search for what made the difference. When you win such a battle, you do not care how you made it happen, you just care about the fact that yes you did it. His tennis being also maybe more in the guts than in the brain on the big points, it is kind of a second nature for him to put it all out there: whatever it takes, however it’s done, just do it. Adding that the Spaniard can feed off from the crowd or the stakes energy like very few of the younger players: he’s been a man of the big stages from the start.

“I just believe in myself”, Alcaraz

“I just try to be focused, to put my best in every shot, in every game. I just believe in myself in that game: I was returning pretty well, had a lot of chances returning 40-All, 30-All a lot of times. I just believe in myself that I could break in this moment. Obviously, I think I played really well tennis in that game. I would say the things came in my favour.”

But, the same way Sinner didn’t really know how he had lost this match; Alcaraz didn’t really know how he had won it. “I still don’t know how I did it,” Alcaraz said on the court. “The level that I played, the level of the match, it was unbelievable. Jannik’s level is just amazing. Honestly, I will never be tired to say that it’s thanks to the support that I had from you in the bad moments.”

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