Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Coco Gauff loses

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain reacts during his fourth round match against Ugo Humbert of France at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Sunday, July 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)(AP/Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON (AP) — There Carlos Alcaraz was, down on his backside at a baseline below the Royal Box, briefly taking a seat in the grass after doing the splits when he slipped while running to hit a forehand during his fourth-round match Sunday.

So now what? Give up on the point and get ready for the next? Ha. Not this kid. Alcaraz popped to his feet, sprinted to his left to get to a backhand wide of the doubles alley, then raced forward to reach a short shot and, eventually, watched his opponent send a volley long.

That allowed Alcaraz to claim the second set of what would become a 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 victory against No. 16 seed Ugo Humbert at Centre Court. The defending champion at the All England Club celebrated the moment by raising his right index finger in a “No. 1” gesture and shouting “Vamos!” as thousands of spectators rose to salute him.

The 21-year-old Spaniard is making a habit of turning the impossible into the possible, figuring out ways to win points many other players would concede and, in the bigger picture, breaking new ground time after time. He’s been the first teenager to reach No. 1 in the ATP rankings, and last month’s French Open championship made him the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on three surfaces: hard, grass and clay courts.

Asked during his on-court interview how he’d describe the remarkable sequence against Humbert, Alcaraz offered a huge smile and responded: “Unbelievable, I guess. I just try to fight every point, every ball. It doesn’t matter what part of the court.”

Unbelievable, maybe, but certainly not unprecedented. For him, at least. Later, at his news conference, he recalled having made that same sort of recovery from a fall during his thrill-a-minute marathon against rival Jannik Sinner at the 2022 U.S. Open, a tournament Alcaraz went on to win.

“I think,” Alcaraz said, “that I can reach every ball.”

There is a possible rematch against the No. 1-ranked Sinner looming in the semifinals. Each just needs to win once more to get there. In Tuesday’s quarterfinals, Alcaraz will face No. 12 Tommy Paul, and Sinner goes up against 2021 U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev.

Sinner was bounced in last year’s Wimbledon semifinals by Novak Djokovic, who then lost to Alcaraz in a five-set final.

Sinner earned his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, and he advanced Sunday with a 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (9) win against No. 14 Ben Shelton, breaking the big-serving left-hander four times — the same total number of breaks others had managed against the 21-year-old American through 15 sets entering the day.

Like Alcaraz, Sinner is capable of some improvised racket wizardry, as he displayed in the third set, bringing his racket around his back at the baseline and flicking a between-the-legs shot that he followed up with a passing winner.

“I’m not kind of player to have a lot of trick shots. But in this case, it was still the easiest shot. I didn’t have space to go right and left,” Sinner said, calling it a “lucky shot.”

Paul reached his first quarterfinal at Wimbledon by using a 41-14 edge in winners to extend his unbeaten run to nine matches, all on grass, with a 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory over Roberto Bautista Agut. Medvedev moved on when Grigor Dimitrov stopped playing because of a leg injury in the first set.

There was another midmatch retirement in a women’s fourth-round match: 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys hurt her leg, took a medical timeout and then briefly tried to continue. But she was wiping away tears as she walked to the net when she decided she needed to quit at 5-all in the third set against Jasmine Paolini, who was a finalist at this year’s French Open.

“I’m so sorry for her. To end the match like this, it’s bad. What can I say?” Paolini said. “I’m feeling a little bit happy, but also sad for her. It’s not easy to win like that.”

Paolini next meets No. 19 Emma Navarro, who defeated reigning U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-3 in the day’s last match. The second-seeded Gauff’s exit comes the day after No. 1 Iga Swiatek lost and leaves just two of the top 10 seeded women in the bracket: No. 4 Elena Rybakina, the 2022 champion, and No. 7 Paolini.

The other women’s quarterfinal established Sunday is Lulu Sun against Donna Vekic. Sun eliminated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to become the first woman to get through qualifying and reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals since 2010, and the first woman from New Zealand to get that far at the All England Club in the Open era, which began in 1968.

Vekic dropped to her knees at No. 2 Court after getting past Paula Badosa 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in a match disrupted by three rain delays to make her first quarterfinal at the grass-court event in 10 appearances.

“I feel,” said Vekic, a 28-year-old from Croatia, “like I’m living my dream.”


AP tennis:

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