New York | Carlos wins US title and rises to world No.1

It was always going to be a tight final with both the US Open title and top ranking at stake and it took Carlos Alcaraz three hours and 20-minutes to overcome Casper Ruud 6-4 2-6 7-6(1) 6-3 as he completed an incredible 23-hours and 21-minutes on court over the fortnight, of which 13 hours and 28-minutes were spent playing three five-setters in the latter stages to make the final and become the youngest US Champion since Pete Sampras (1990).

It is something I have dreamt of since I was a kid. To be No. 1 in the world, to be champion of a Grand Slam, is something I have worked really, really hard (for), Carlos Alcaraz

There is no doubt that with Alcaraz and Ruud a new era in tennis is establishing itself as the Spaniard aged just 19, collects his first Grand Slam title and the 23-year-old Norwegian is forced to accept his second defeat at that level.

Both though rise dramatically up the rankings – Alcaraz from fourth to No,1 and again, becomes the youngest male player to reach that spot while Ruud’s jump is even greater, from seven to No.2.

“It is something I have dreamt of since I was a kid. To be No. 1 in the world, to be champion of a Grand Slam, is something I have worked really, really hard (for),” Alcaraz told the packed Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It is tough to talk right now, I have lots of emotions. This is something I have tried to achieve. All the hard work I have done with my team and my family. I am just 19 years-old, all the tough decisions have been with my parents and my team as well. It is something that is really special for me.”

The psychological advantage always lay with Alcaraz who had not dropped a set to his rival in their previous two matches, resulting in Ruud approaching this match with a more aggressive game which became evident in the early stages of the final.

With the roof closed, the crowd observed a moving moment’s silence on the 21st anniversary of the September 11 attacks before the final got off to a tentative start.

The two are known for their powerful forehands and Ruud focused his on the Alcaraz backhand which yielded good results whilst also frustrating him.

But there were nerves in those early stages with Alcaraz breaking in the first game which was all he needed to take the first set.

While Ruud dropped the set, he was praised for his sportsmanship when he called a double bounce on himself in the eighth game, conceding the point to the Spaniard.

Ruud’s game plan finally started to have an impact in the second as he crucially prevented Alcaraz from breaking him to take a 3-2 lead which he followed up by snatching the young Spaniards serve to pull ahead 4-2. Another hold including saving a break-back point he then levelled the final with his second break of the third seed.

Considering how long Alcaraz had been on court, spectators wondered whether the teenager had finally run out of steam with Ruud now looking the stronger, but you can’t ever dismiss this seemingly indefatigable player.

The pair exchanged early breaks in the third until the 12th game when Ruud had two set points only to be denied them by some aggressive play from his rival who forced a tie-break where he dominated with a seven-point run.

Ruud’s challenge evaporated in the fourth when the Norwegian, serving at 2-3, crucially dropped his serve giving Alcaraz a clear run to the title and the top of the ranking ladder with a performance which produced 55-winners and 14 aces.

Carlos Alcaraz throws himself on the court following his win

Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

“It’s crazy for me. I’ve never thought that I was going to achieve something like that at 19 years old. So, everything came so fast,” Alcaraz said.

Ruud hid his disappointment well having now lost two Grand Slam finals, and both to Spaniards!

“Things have been going so well. Today was a special evening,” Ruud admitted on court. “Both Carlos and I knew what we were playing for and what was at stake. We will be No. 2 and No. 1 in the world tomorrow, I think it is fitting. I am disappointed of course that I am not No. 1, but No. 2 is not bad either. I am happy with that number, and I will continue to chase for my first Grand Slam title and No. 1 ranking.”

Alcaraz, who is now also the youngest Grand Slam winner since his compatriot Rafael Nadal in 2005, added: “Right now I’m enjoying the moment. I’m enjoying having the trophy in my hands.

“But of course, I’m hungry for more. I want to be at the top for many, many weeks. I hope many years. I’m going to work hard again after these amazing two weeks. I’m going to fight to have more of this.”

And Nadal was quick to congratulate the player widely seen as his heir apparent.

“Congratulations @carlosalcaraz for your first Grand Slam and for number 1, which is the culmination of your great season, which I am sure will be many more,” the 22-time Slam title winner tweeted.

Winner Carlos Alcaraz and runner-up Casper Ruud with their trophies

Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

He also tweeted commiserations for Ruud following his second final loss at that level. The first coming at his hands at the French Open.

“Great effort Casper Ruud! Very proud of you! Tough luck today but amazing tournament and season! Keep going!”

Alcaraz’s victory was always on the cards. It was always a matter of where and when and 2022 has now proved to be his breakthrough year.

His first Grand Slam title has followed Masters wins in Miami and Madrid — where he defeated Nadal and Novak Djokovic back-to-back — Rio and Barcelona.

“Since I won Miami, I thought I was able to have a Grand Slam in my hands. But before Miami, I was thinking that I have to still grow up,” the teenager revealed.

His early successes then took a knock with a quarter-final loss at Roland Garros, a last-16 exit at Wimbledon, a second-round loss at the Montreal Masters and a quarter-final defeat in Cincinnati.

“In Montreal and in Cincinnati I lost the joy a little bit. I felt the pressure. I couldn’t smile on court which I’m doing in every match, every tournament,” he explained.

“I came here just to enjoy, to smile on court, to enjoy playing tennis. If I have fun, I saw my best level, my best tennis.”

Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former world No.1 and grand slam champion himself, said the new champion was “born to play these tournaments” and that there was much more to come from his compatriot.

“I think he’s on 60% of his game. He can improve a lot of things. He knows and I know that we have to keep working,” Ferrero said.

“Once you get to the No. 1, it’s not done and you go (on). You have to keep working, keep playing at a huge level to keep winning.

“He knows that, and I know that. I’m going to be very close to him to remind him.”

The next few months and years should prove very interesting.

Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud walk off court arm-in-arm

Jean Catuffe/Getty Images



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