Home News Mike Lupica: Carlos Alcaraz, like Patrick Mahomes, plays his best when it...

Mike Lupica: Carlos Alcaraz, like Patrick Mahomes, plays his best when it matters the most

WIMBLEDON — You take greatness in sports, the ability that great athletes have to rise to the moment with which most of them have to be born, wherever you find it. And everybody found it all over again with Carlos Alcaraz on Friday afternoon at Centre Court, after he had been down two sets to one to Frances Tiafoe, after he had to win a fourth set tiebreaker to keep alive his chance to win two Wimbledons in a row.

It was the fifth set against Tiafoe for him now, and perhaps the only other person in the place who fully appreciated the moment was Patrick Mahomes, a Wimbledon spectator on this day with his wife. Mahomes had to understand, and completely, what he was watching and what Alcaraz was doing with everything on the line for him again, because he seems to do the same thing all the time, playing his best when it matters the most.

Alcaraz would end up beating Tiafoe 6-2 in the fifth. The Spanish kid, heir to Rafa Nadal, has now won his last nine 5-set matches. He is 12-1 overall in matches like that, and here is what he has done in the last six, in the biggest theaters of tennis:

Took out Tiafoe on Friday. Beat Alexander Zverev 6-2 in the French Open final, also after being down two sets to one. Beat Jannik Sinner, the No. 1 ranked player in the world right now and the top seed here, 6-3 in the fifth set of the French Open semis. Beat Novak Djokovic 6-4 in the fifth set of the last Wimbledon final.

He also beat Tiafoe 6-3 in the fifth of a wonderful U.S. Open semi in 2022, after beating Sinner 6-3 in the quarters that year. This is who Alcaraz is, so early in a career that has already seen him win majors on three different surfaces. This is absolutely where he is at his best, and was on Friday after Tiafoe was ahead of him, when it was still 0-30 on Alcaraz’s serve at 4-all in the fourth set, when it was all up against him, and he could have been six points away from being out of Wimbledon before he even made it to the second week.

But then the kid ripped a forehand that comes out of him and off his racket at a shout, followed it with a crackling backhand. Then a body serve that handcuffed Tiafoe. Finally an ace. It was 5-4. He was on his way to the tiebreaker and whether Tiafoe knew it or not, he was like a fighter just hanging on, ready to go.

The tiebreaker was 7-2 for Alcaraz and could easily have been 7-0. The last two points were won on his serve, a big second serve followed by a much bigger and louder first serve. They would go to that fifth set, where Alcaraz was 11-1 about to be 12-1, where eight in a row was about to be nine in a row, because he had gotten up again, this time on the most famous court at the most famous tournament in the world.

“I served [at] a lot of difficult moments during the fourth set. … All I was thinking is: ‘OK, fight one more ball, one more ball.’ Thinking about the next point,” Alcaraz said when it was over.  “And obviously in the tiebreak, I always tell myself that I have to go for it. If I lose it, I lose it, but I have to feel that I went for it all the time.”

Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes attends WImbledon
Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes takes in Carlos Alcaraz’s third-round match Friday at Wimbledon.

It’s exactly what he did. It’s what he always does when his sport slows down for him the way it does for somebody like Mahomes, when the only thing that seems to speed up is the ball coming off his racket when he rips another groundstroke, before another drop shot is falling over the net like a pillow hitting a bed, the way the ball did on his last match point.

Doesn’t mean he is going to win another Wimbledon. If he keeps going and Sinner keeps going they will meet in the semifinals because of the way the seedings have fallen here. But once again on Friday, in a third-round match that lit up Wimbledon on a dreary, rainy day that sometimes feels as traditional as the grass, he was Mahomes in the fourth quarter, and in overtime. He was all that.


Three weeks ago, before the last Red Sox-Yankees series at Fenway Park, the Yankees were 13 games ahead of Boston.

After Friday’s latest meltdown for the Yankees, the team’s lead over the Red Sox was down to three in the loss column.

It’s like they say in that television commercial.

Life comes at you fast.

The firm of Steinbrenner and Cashman is once again being made aware, just in this last month of Biblically bad baseball, that they don’t start lining up the floats at the Canyon of Heroes halfway through a season.

Sometimes you wonder if the Yankees see the nice player Anthony Volpe is, or the great player they still so desperately want him to be.

Hey, when they talk about a bottom of the batting order these days with the Yankees, they’re not kidding with the bottom part, right?

If you’re looking for a summer job, call the Mets about coming out of their bullpen.

We are going to find out fairly quickly if Edwin Diaz just made an innocent mistake, or if he needs the Velcro.

The way things are going, I’m starting to think that Leon Rose might throw me into the Mikal Bridges deal.

So we are now living in a sports world where Jayson Tatum’s average salary is about $20 million more a year than Aaron Judge’s.

Which, you have to say, is nice work if you can get it.

I’m hoping that this is Coco Gauff’s Wimbledon to win.

But another American woman, Emma Navarro, sure is fun to watch.

If you are still hesitant calling Novak Djokovic the GOAT of men’s tennis, keep in mind that he not only has more majors than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but has the lifetime edge on both of them head-to-head.

Djokovic came along at a time when Fed and Rafa were combining to win 42 majors, is just a year younger than Nadal and five years younger than Fed, and ended up beating them both.

Straight up.

You know who doesn’t really belong on “Hard Knocks?”

The New York football Giants don’t.

The Murdoch Media covers Joe Biden like he’s Putin.

Say it again:

Look out for the Houston Astroids the rest of the way, because they really have played all the bad baseball this season they’re going to play.

I don’t know about you, but the National Football League getting clipped for more than $4 billion on that Sunday Ticket lawsuit seems like kind of a lot to me.

Through Friday night the Yankees were closer to the Red Sox in the loss column than they were the Orioles.

Just sayin’.


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