With Rafael Nadal nearing the end of his illustrious tennis career, Spanish tennis fans have every reason to be excited about the future, as the man dubbed “the next Rafa” caused a major upset at the US Open on Saturday morning (AEST).
Contesting his first Centre Court match at any Major, 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz shone brightest on the big stage and displayed nerves of steel to knock Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas out of the tournament, with a stunning and thrilling five-set triumph.
The clash between Alcaraz and Tsitsipas was much anticipated for a number of reasons, with it being dubbed a mini-intergenerational clash of sorts due to the players’ ages, and it certainly did not disappoint as they duked out a four-hour classic.
Alcaraz, who is coached by 2003 French Open champion (and US Open runner-up that year) Juan Carlos Ferrero, quickly secured a double break to lead 4-0 in the opening set, and while Tsitsipas pegged back some games, a third loss of serve proved fatal as the 18-year-old took the opening set 6-3.
The second set started more of the same, with the 18-year-old breaking for a 3-0 lead, but the Athens native would work his way back into the match, clawing back to parity before recovering from *0-40 in the tenth game to take the set 6-3.
A double break saw Tsitsipas race to a 5-2 lead in the third set, as he looked to close in on reaching the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the first time, but Alcaraz would peg back both breaks and then dominate the subsequent tiebreak to take a two-sets-to-one lead.
Facing yet another early exit at a Major, the Greek third seed claimed the fourth set without dropping a game to force a fifth and deciding set.
The two young guns then went toe-to-toe in the one-set shootout, and after neither was able to gain an advantage, a final set tiebreak would be used to settle the outcome.
An early mini-break from Alcaraz saw him bring up three match points, and after he put a shot long on the second, converted on the third with a huge forehand winner to send tournament villain Tsitsipas crashing out of the tournament.
He has now become the youngest man to reach the last 16 at any major since Andrei Medvedev at the 1992 French Open, and at the US Open since Michael Chang in 1989. He is also the youngest man to reach two Grand Slam third rounds since Novak Djokovic in 2005.
Further, he became the youngest player to beat a top-three player at the US Open since the rankings were introduced in 1973. His triumph has already drawn parallels to how a 17-year-old Nadal thrashed then-top ranked Roger Federer at the Miami Masters in 2004.
His reward is a fourth-round clash against German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk, who is ranked 141st in the world, with a quarter-final berth at stake.
It made for a successful day session on Arthur Ashe Stadium for Spain, after ninth seed Garbine Muguruza defeated Victoria Azarenka in three sets in the battle of former Grand Slam champions and world number ones.
The 27-year-old dropped serve early on but from 3-4 in the first set, rattled off eleven straight points to take the first set 6-4, finishing it off with an ace.
Azarenka hit back hard, claiming a double break to take a 4-0 lead; it proved to be enough as she took the second set by 6-3 to force a one-set shootout.
After saving two break points at 1-all in the final set, Muguruza won five of the final six games, the last four without reply, to advance to the last sixteen at Flushing Meadows for just the second time. There, she will face reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.
In a clash of former US Open champions, 2016 victor Angelique Kerber came from a set down to oust 2017 champ Sloane Stephens to earn herself a fourth round berth against Canadian giant-killer Leylah Annie Fernandez.
Fernandez, who turns 19 tomorrow, caused the biggest upset in the women’s draw by coming from a set down to oust reigning champion Naomi Osaka in three sets in just over two hours.
A single break of serve was enough for Osaka to take the first set 7-5, and she did not face a break point until serving for the match in the second. However, Fernandez would break right back, then dominate the tiebreak to send the match into a third and deciding set.
The Canadian broke to start the final set, then consolidated for a 2-0 lead as Osaka copped a code violation for ball abuse. From there, the 19-year-old would not relinquish the advantage and ultimately won 6-4 after the Japanese star sent a forehand wide.
She has now become the youngest player to defeat Osaka at a Major since Coco Gauff at Melbourne Park last year; coincidentally, that was the 23-year-old’s most recent defeat at a Major, having won last year’s US Open and this year’s Australian Open in the intervention.
Fernandez’s clash with Kerber will take place on her 19th birthday, and there is nothing she would love to do more than cause another boilover on her special day in the Big Apple.
In other matches, Australian Alexei Popyrin threw away a two-set lead to lose to British 24th seed Dan Evans in a thrilling five-set match in which the final set was decided in a tiebreak, missing out on a fourth round showdown against second seed Daniil Medvedev in the process.
Medvedev had it easier in his third round clash, thrashing Spaniard Pablo Andujar in straight sets and losing just seven games as he firms as the favourite to reach the final from the bottom half of the draw.
Women’s twelfth seed Simona Halep needed three sets to defeat Elena Rybakina, while second seed Aryna Sabalenka was due to play American Danielle Collins overnight.
A Super Saturday on Arthur Ashe Stadium sees four matches featuring three players with 24 Major titles between them.
Women’s tenth seed Petra Kvitova kicks off the day session with a clash against Greek seventeenth seed Maria Sakkari before Novak Djokovic takes on Kei Nishikori in what will be their 20th career meeting, and second at Flushing Meadows.
At night, Ashleigh Barty, who has firmed in favouritism for the women’s title following the aforementioned upset loss suffered by Naomi Osaka, faces Shelby Rogers for the fifth time this year; that is followed by Alexander Zverev taking on American favourite Jack Sock.
On Louis Armstrong Stadium, 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu headlines a daytime triple-header which also features matches between Belinda Bencic and Jessica Pegula, as well as Jannik Sinner and the recently-married Gael Monfils.
The only other Australian remaining in the singles draw, Ajla Tomljanovic, tackles fourth seed Karolina Pliskova in the third match on the Grandstand.
Arthur Ashe Stadium
Day session – play starts at 12:00pm (2:00am AEST)
 Petra Kvitova (CZE) vs  Maria Sakkari (GRE)
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs Kei Nishikori (JPN)
Night session – play starts at 7:00pm (9:00am AEST)
 Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs Shelby Rogers (USA)
 Alexander Zverev (GER) vs Jack Sock (USA)
Louis Armstrong Stadium
Day session – play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST)
Greet Minnen (BEL) vs  Bianca Andreescu (CAN)
Not before 12:30pm (2:30am AEST)
 Belinda Bencic (SUI) vs  Jessica Pegula (USA)
 Gael Monfils (FRA) vs  Jannik Sinner (ITA)
Night session – play starts at 7:00pm (9:00am AEST)
Lloyd Harris (RSA) vs  Denis Shapovalov (CAN)
Varvara Gracheva (RUS) vs  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
Play starts at 11:00am (1:00am AEST)
Ilya Ivashka (BLR) vs  Matteo Berrettini (ITA)
 Anett Kontaveit (EST) vs  Iga Swiatek (POL)
Not before 3:00pm (5:00am AEST)
 Karolina Pliskova (CZE) vs Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS)
Not before 5:00pm (7:00am AEST)
Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) vs  Reilly Opelka (USA)
Play starts at 12:00pm (2:00am AEST)
Andreas Seppi (ITA) vs Oscar Otte (GER)
Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) vs Emma Raducanu (GBR)
 Aslan Karatsev (RUS) vs Jenson Brooksby (USA)
For the full Day 6 schedule, please check the US Open website.