THE NEW YORK: In the U.S. Open final on Sunday, Carlos Alcaraz defeated Casper Ruud with a combination of guts and experience to win his maiden Grand Slam championship at the age of 19. And become the youngest person to hold the No. 1 ranking. Alcaraz, a Spaniard, was competing in his second major tournament at Flushing Meadows and ninth overall. But he had already drawn much notice as the sport’s potential Next Big Thing.
At Arthur Ashe Stadium, Alcaraz was serenaded by cries of “Olé, Olé, Olé! Carlos!” that echoed off the closed roof. Alcaraz would frequently signal for the cheering crowd to go louder. He only momentarily showed indications of exhaustion after needing to win three straight five-setter matches to get to the title match. Which had never been accomplished in New York in the previous 30 years.
Alcaraz lost the second set and, at 6-5 in the third, had two set points. But he snuffed out each of Ruud’s chances to score a point from the set with the rapid reflex, soft-hand volleys he frequently demonstrated. Alcaraz advanced to the finish of that set with the aid of many missed strokes by a tense-looking Ruud in the next tiebreaker.
The only Grand Slam final with two players pursuing both a maiden major title and the top slot in the ATP’s computerized rankings. Which dates back to 1973, and required just one break in the fourth set for Carlos Alcaraz to secure the triumph in U.S. Open.
23-year-old Norwegian Ruud is now 0-2 in Slam finals. Rafael Nadal defeated him to win the French Open in June. To return serves and also over the course of points, Ruud remained far farther back along the wall than Alcaraz, who only attacked when he could.
Carlos Alcaraz targeted Ruud’s backhand, which was his weaker side, and was successful in doing so, particularly when serving.
At the very least, Ruud earns the sportsmanship prize for giving up a point that he was aware he didn’t merit. He rushed forward to a short ball that bounced twice before Ruud’s racket touched it. When he was behind 4-3 in the opening set.
As the game went on, Alcaraz hesitated and botched his response. Alcaraz was awarded the point when Ruud informed the chair umpire of the incident. To appreciate the action, Alcaraz gave his opponent a thumbs-up and joined the audience in applauding.
Alcaraz appears to be a unique talent with an impressive all-court game. A combination of powerful groundstrokes, and a determination to advance and close points with his volleying skills. When he got to the hoop on Sunday, he won 34 of the 45 points.
He is dangerous both while serving (on Sunday, he hit 14 aces at much to 128 mph) and returning, garnering 11 break points and converting three of them.
Without a doubt, Ruud is also not a slouch. He won a 55-shot point Friday in the semifinals. Which was the longest of the event. It made him the youngest player since Nadal to reach two major finals in a single season.
But here was Alcaraz’s chance to shine, to demonstrate the strength, quickness, skill, and composure of a champion. Alcaraz collapsed onto his stomach on the court and covered his face with his hands as one final serve winner deflected off Ruud’s frame.
Then, while still sobbing, he walked into the crowd for hugs with his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero. A former No. 1 himself who won the French Open in 2003 and advanced to the U.S. Open final that year.
There is just one first time at No. 1. A first Grand Slam champion is only ever won once. Many people anticipate Alcaraz will continue to honor these accomplishments for many years to come.
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