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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, September 11, 2022


Carlos Alcaraz beat Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 in the US Open final to win his maiden major and become the youngest man to rise to world No. 1.

Photo credit: Elsa/Getty

NEW YORK—Marathon man Carlos Alcaraz saw the dream dangling within reach.

The 19-year-old Alcaraz unleashed one final spirited sprint to snare it.

More: Swiatek Wins First US Open

In a historic US Open final with the world No. 1 ranking on the line, Alcaraz announced his arrival as a Grand Slam champion with a masterful performance in his maiden major final.

A dynamic Alcaraz conquered Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 in tonight's US Open final to capture his first Grand Slam championship and complete a riveting rise as the youngest man in the history of the ATP rankings to rise to world No. 1.

An emotional Alcaraz crashed to the court after crashing his final service winner then arose as new world No. 1 shedding tears and smiling simultaneously. Alcaraz's amazing ascension to No. 1 breaks Lleyton Hewitt's record of youngest man to rise to the top spot. Hewitt was 20 years, 9 months when he attained the top spot in November, 2001.

"This is something I dreamt of since I was a kid," said Alcaraz before receiving the champion's check for $2.6 million and hoisting the silver US Open championship trophy. "To be number one in the world, to be a champion of a Grand Slam is something I work really, really hard for.

"It's tough to talk right now a lot of emotions right now."

The final fell on the 21st anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. On a somber day in New York City, both Alcaraz and Ruud competed with grit and both men showed pure class in the aftermath of the final prefacing their remarks by acknowledging the 9-11 tragedy eliciting appreciative applause from fans.

Alcaraz is new No. 1, Ruud rises to world No. 2 and both men give tennis fans all over the world a lot to look forward to in the coming years. It's the second Grand Slam final setback for Ruud, who fell to Grand Slam king Rafael Nadal in his maiden major final at Roland Garros in June.

"Today was a special evening: both Carlos and I knew what we were playing for, we knew what was at stake," Ruud told the crowd afterward. "It's fun both finalists will be at number one and number two tomorrow. I think it's fitting.

"I'm disappointed of course I'm not number one, but number two isn't too bad either. I'm happy with that number and I will continue to chase my first Grand Slam title and number one ranking."

The third-seeded Alcaraz saved two set points to force a third-set tiebreaker then elevated to an exceptional level that Ruud could not sustain. Alcaraz rolled through seven straight points to take the crucial tiebreaker, the first tiebreaker he won in the tournament, then broke at 30 for a 4-2 lead in the fourth set.

At age 19 years, 4 months, Alcaraz is the youngest US Open men's champion since Pete Sampras, at 19 years, 28 days, beat arch rival Andre Agassi to collect the 1990 Flushing Meadows crown and is the youngest men's Grand Slam champion since Rafael Nadal aged 19 years, 2 days won the 2005 Roland Garros.

It was an unprecedented US Open final of firsts: the first final of men playing for their maiden major title and world No 1 ranking and the first Grand Slam final between two men who have never been world No. 1 playing for the top spot.

First-rate serving and electric court coverage were essential elements to the Spanish teenager's triumph. Alcaraz fired 14 aces
four more than Ruud—saved seven of 10 break points and whipped the wide serve effectively to set up explosive first strike drives. Alcaraz hammered 55 winners and showed his speed with both dazzling defensive gets and determined forward movement winning 34 of 45 net points.

All-court acumen and the guts to go for his shots at crunch time are two reasons why New York City fans embraced Alcaraz as one of their own. Alcaraz credited Flushing Meadows fans with an assist for this inspired title run.

"It means a lot to me to have a lot of people supporting me here in New York. What I lived last year was incredible. But this year was unscriptable," Alcaraz said. "There were a lot of tough moments for me, tough matches. They were there all the time believing in me, supporting me. I finish the match against Jannik at almost 3 a.m. and they were there supporting me until the last ball.

"I could say this trophy is for them, as well. It's thanks to them. Maybe if I hadn't them supporting me all the time, I couldn't have this trophy today."

Consider the competitive courage Alcaraz showed in this Flushing Meadows fortnight fighting through three consecutive five-set victories en route to his major mastery. 

Ultimately, Alcaraz beat back fatigue and all-comers in this US Open final rematch of the Miami Open final, which Alcaraz won 7-5, 6-4.

"It's not time to be tired in the final of a Grand Slam tournament," Alcaraz said. "You have to give everything on court everything inside. I work very, very hard on it. There is no time to be tired." 

An exuberant crowd of  23,859 fans, including Anne Hathaway, Billie Jean King, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Devin Booker, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Bon Jovi, and Anna Wintour, created a wall of sound beneath the closed roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Alcaraz won the toss, chose to receive and immediately applied pressure earning a pair of break points. A Ruud reaction volley and smash helped him hold in the opening game.

The Spanish teenager faced his own stress test saving a couple of break points then pumping an ace and punishing a forehand winner to level.  Alcaraz's ability to control his drives on the full stretch is astonishing at times. The teenager, who missed a forehand drive volley earlier, came right back cranking that shot for triple break point in the third game. A churning Alcaraz return rattled out the break and a 2-1 lead.

The seventh-ranked Norwegian pressed the issue in baseline rallies to gain break point in the fourth game. Deploying his stealth drop shot, Alcaraz saved it. The Spaniard smacked a heavy serve and hammered a forehand winner to consolidate the break.

Exploiting the French Open finalist's deep return positioning, Alcaraz successfully serve-and-volleyed twice in succession serving for the set. Alcaraz served out the 49-minute opener at love lashing 13 winners to 6 for Ruud in the first set and finishing with a fist pump to coach Juan Carlos Ferrero.

If you watched these two play the past two weeks you have to figure both will be sticking around for a long time. The Alcaraz vs. Ruud title match was the second-youngest US Open men’s singles final of the Open Era, trailing 19-year-old Pete Sampras’ win ove Andre Agassi, 20, in the 1990 US Open final.

Midway through the second set, Ruud showed eye-popping speed hitting a stretch forehand on the sprint then streaking up to a drop volley to scrap out a lob. Alcaraz missed a backhand down the line as a fired-up Ruud threw a huge fist pump breaking for 4-2. 

Fans were changing "Ruud! Ruud!" The Norwegian heard the calls saving a break point and thumping a bounce smash to back up the break for 5-2 after 81 minutes of play. Extending points against an increasingly erratic Alcaraz, Ruud drew a backhand long for set point. Alcaraz saved it but double faulted to face a second set point. Ruud ran down a drop shot then soared for a smash scoring his second straight break to take the second set on a four-game run.

Marathon man Alcaraz scored three five-set wins en route to the final—he conquered former US Open champion Marin Cilic in a fourth-round win that ended at 2:23 am, out-dueled Jannik Sinner in classic quarterfinal that ended at 2:50 am, the latest finish in US Open history, then topped Frances Tiafoe in a semifinal that concluded at 11:54 p.m.

How much life was left in Alcaraz's 19-year-old legs after going the distance in so many draining late-night duels?

The Miami Open champion answered, carving out a forehand drop shot as he broke to start the third set. Alcaraz slashed his sixth ace to confirm the break for 2-0. Alcaraz had a shot for the double break but Ruud rejected it. Dropping several feet behind the baseline to return, Ruud was putting more air beneath his returns making the teenager work, while Alcaraz was trying to shorten points. Ruud drew a netted error breaking back for 2-all.

Tension escalated at 4-all, 30-all as Ruud turned defense to offense going airborne for a smash and sending a volley into the corner that Alcaraz, who sprawled onto his stomach, could not control. Ruud held firm for 5-4.

Staring down a set point at 5-6, Alcaraz showed courage working his way to net and angling off a full stretch volley.  Ruud was nine feet off the court cracking a forehand return pass to earn a second set point. Alcaraz erased it with a serve-and-volley. An 11-minute game—longest of the match—came to an exhilarating end as Ruud pulled off a tweener retrieval but Alcaraz was waiting at net to throw down a smash and force the tiebreaker after two hours, 35 minutes.

Tiebreakers were heartbreakers for Alcaraz, who had lost all four breakers he played en route to this final.

None of that mattered much to the Miami Open champion. Ruud ripped an ace to open the breaker, then Alcaraz dominated, streaking through seven straight points. Alcaraz rapped a forehand winner and whipped a wide serve for a fistful of set points at 6-1.

The 19-year-old Spaniard made good on his first set point. Alcaraz hammered a deep return that Ruud could not handle as he denied two set points to snatch the third set.

"Carlos stepped up when he really needed to. Especially in the third set, it was close to go in my favor," Ruud said. "I had some set points and couldn't take care of them. He just played too good on those points. We've seen it many times before, he steps up when he needs to. When it's close, he pulls out great shots.

"All credit to him. At the same time I'm proud of the match and the two weeks. I gave it all. I left it all out on the court. Played some phenomenal tennis throughout the two weeks, probably my best tennis ever on this surface. So I'm very happy in the end. We'll hopefully get another chance at a slam in the future."

Through the first three sets, Ruud was winning more of the longer points. Yet Alcaraz seemed to grow stronger as the match progressed. Banging a pair of backhands brought Alcaraz 15-30 in the sixth game. A scrambling, skidding Alcaraz dug out a running lob that a leaping Ruud taped wide for break point. Running down everything Ruud through at him, Alcaraz elicited an error breaking for a 4-2 fourth-set lead that sent his entire box leaping to its feet.

Slashing an ace down the middle brought Alcaraz double championship point. An over-eager Alcaraz sailed a forehand on the first as his father leaned forward in his court-side seat.

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On his second championship point, Alcaraz hammered a huge serve into the corner then crashed to the court as Arthur Ashe Stadium fans roared. An hour after his maiden major, fans were still celebrating outside the stadium in a sing-song chant of "Ole! Ole! Ole! Carlos! Carlos." 

A spirited Alcaraz orchestrated major coming of age celebration.

Nineteen years after Alcaraz's coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, rose to world No. 1 after bowing to Andy Roddick in the 2003 US Open final, his charge claimed the top spot with resilience.

Alcaraz and coach Ferrero engaged in a tearful embrace afterward a shared dream realized. Coach Ferrero says the best is yet to come.

"I have the goal to put him on the high level of tennis," Ferrero said. "Of course, I think it's going to be very, very difficult to achieve what [the Big 3] have done on tennis. We're talking about 22 Grand Slams. He has only one. Is a long way still to go.

"But who knows? I think he has all the tennis and potential to be one of the best. All we have to do is try it."


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