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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday April 3, 2022

Carlos Alcaraz

Eighteen-year-old Carlos Alcaraz conquered Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-4 to become the youngest Miami Open champion in history.

Photo Source: Getty

MIAMI—Hopping high off the court during the coin toss, Carlos Alcaraz was bursting with energy in his first Masters 1000 final.

The 18-year-old Spanish phenom turned Hard Rock Stadium into a bounce house and brought thousands of frenzied fans along for the ride.

Tennis Express

A dynamic Alcaraz conquered Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-4 to capture the Miami Open and become the youngest champion in the tournament’s 37-year history. Alcaraz broke the previous record held by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who was 19 when he won the 2007 tournament on Key Biscayne

The 16th-ranked Spaniard is the third youngest ATP Masters 1000 champion in series history—only American Michael Chang and 21-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal were younger when they won their first respective ATP Masters 1000 titles.

It was a coming-of-age triumph for Alcaraz that snapped a Spanish streak of futility in South Florida. Spaniards were 0-8 in Miami Open men’s singles finals with Nadal bowing in five finals and Sergi Bruguera (1997), Carlos Moya (2003) and David Ferrer (2013) all raising runner-up trophies in south Florida.

Alcaraz was in no mood for consolation prizes today. Showing his maturity as a pressure player, Alcaraz improved to 18-2 on the season retaining his undefeated record in ATP finals.

The most impressive aspect of this inspired run is the depth and completeness of Alcaraz’s game. It sounds sacrilegious to say it, but at age 18 years, 11 months, Alcaraz owns a more complete all-around game than the teenage Rafa or Novak had. That’s not to say he will match their brilliant careers or win as many majors, but if you saw Alcaraz play this week then you know the totality of the teenager’s game.

Smooth movement, damaging power off both wings, fine finesse featuring one of the best drop shots in the sport and his willingness to attack net make Alcaraz a more well-rounded player than many veterans on the tour. In fact, he closed this championship with a serve and volley winner on championship point.

Credit Ruud for a historic run of his own. Typecast as a clay-courter, Ruud carried a 16-27 career hard-court record into 2017, including a pair of opening-round Miami Open losses in his first two appearances. Ruud, who sometimes hits and plays golf with Nadal, has put in the hard yards bolstering his backhand and beefing up his first serve.

Contesting his first Masters 1000 final, Ruud made the ideal start, exploiting three forehand errors from the teenager to break for 2-0.

The first Norwegian man to play a Masters final fought off a break point then drilled a diagonal forehand holding for 4-1.

As the set progressed, Alcaraz was stepping into the court more frequently, firing his forehand with ambition and attacking Ruud’s weaker backhand wing. An Alcaraz attack drew an errant forehand pass for a pair of break points in the seventh game. When Ruud sent a forehand deep, Alcaraz had the break for 3-4.

Small signs of frustration showed from Ruud, who floated a forehand deep then put his palms out toward his box in a signal of his inability to break down Alcaraz from the baseline. A crackling deep return from Alcaraz pushed the sixth seed back creating space for a forehand winner and double break point in the 11th game. Playing too close to the lines, Ruud scattered a forehand wide as Alcaraz broke for 6-5.

Serving for the set, Alcaraz erased a break point banging a biting serve out wide. Blocking a forehand volley winner brought Alcaraz a third set point. This time the Spaniard soared for a smash that splashed off the Spanish flag a fan in the front row was waving sealing a one-set lead with an emphatic exclamation point.

The eighth-ranked Ruud knocked off No. 4 Alexander Zverev in a gritty three-set quarterfinal conquest for the biggest win of his career last week. The man wearing the “Arctic” sponsorship logo knew he was facing the fire today. Alcaraz swept Ruud in their lone prior meeting in Marbella last spring, an experience he described simply: “He was just coming out firing flames at me.”

Today, Alcaraz set up the blazing blasts with some shrewd drop shots.

Drawing the Norwegian in with another drop shot, Alcaraz waited for his opponent to commit then looped a forehand winner breaking to start the second set with his fourth consecutive game.

Stepping into the court, Alcaraz stamped a love hold to back up the break for a one set, 2-0 lead.

Ruud took a medical timeout for apparent back treatment after closing to 2-3 in the second set.

That was a brief reprieve for Ruud. Alcaraz fired his fifth ace sealing a 77-second hold for a 4-2 lead.

Serving for the biggest title of his life, Alcaraz did not flinch. Fittingly, the man who tormented so many opponents with the drop shot flicked one final backhand dropper to close in one hour, 52 minutes then fell flat on his back absorbing a magnificent moment.

As fans roared approval, Alcaraz cleared one final hurdle climbing up to his box to embrace his coach, former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who pinched back tears of joy hugging his charge in a heart-felt embrace. Former Roland Garros champion Ferrero, who has worked with Alcaraz since his early teens, looked deeply moved by the moment.

Miami Open fans embraced Alcaraz from the very start of this inspired run. They were with him when he defeated 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, screamed support when he toppled fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas on Grandstand, rode the thrill ride that was Alcaraz’s 7-(5), 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over Miomir Kecmanovic in the quarters and roared approval when he dethroned defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals and waved the Spanish flag proudly throughout today’s final.

Alcaraz will rise to career-high rank of No. 11 with this triumph—and based on what we’ve seen this year the best is yet to come.


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