NEW YORK — Carlos Alcaraz, aged 19, went to his first Grand Slam final and banged his fists at fans leaning over a railing on the way to Arthur Ashe Stadium court. Moments later, after the coin toss, Alcaraz turned to sprint to the baseline for a warm-up until he was waved back to the net by the chair umpire for the usual pre-game photos.
Alcaraz is filled with boundless enthusiasm and energy, not to mention skill, speed, stamina and cold blood. And now he’s a US Open champion and No. 1 in men’s tennis.
Alcaraz used his combination of moxie and maturity to beat Casper Ruud 6-4 2-6 7-6(1) 6-3 at Flushing Meadows on Sunday to become the youngest man to win the trophy ATP rankings led.
“Well, that’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid,” said Alcaraz, who people of a certain age might still think of as a kid. “It’s something I’ve worked really, really hard on [for]. It’s hard to talk now. Lots of emotions.”
Alcaraz is a Spanish player who has appeared in his eighth Major tournament and second at Flushing Meadows but has already garnered a lot of attention as he is considered to be the next big thing in men’s tennis. He is the youngest man to win a major title since Rafael Nadal was the same age at the 2005 French Open and the youngest at the US Open since 19-year-old Pete Sampras in 1990.
“He’s one of those few rare talents that pops up in the sport every now and then. It seems so,” said Ruud, a 23-year-old Norwegian. “Let’s see how his career develops, but everything is going in the right direction.”
Alcaraz was greeted by choruses of “Ole, Ole, Ole! Carlos!” echoing from the closed roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium – and he often motioned for the supporting crowd to raise their voices.
He only briefly showed signs of tiring, having to go through three consecutive five-setters to reach the title match, something no one in New York had done in 30 years. He spent a total of 23 hours and 40 minutes on the court during the tournament, the most by any male player at a major tournament since early 2000.
Alcaraz went in the fourth round against 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in five sets, finishing at 2:23 on Tuesday. against Jannik Sinner in the Quarterfinals, a 5 hour 15 minute thriller that ended at 2:50 on Friday after Alcaraz had to save a match point; and against Frances Tiafoe in the semifinals.
“You have to give everything on the pitch. You have to give everything you have in it. I worked really, really hard to earn it,” said Alcaraz after the final. “It’s not time to get tired.”
However, this was no walk in the park.
Alcaraz dropped the second set and faced two set points while trailing 6-5 in the third. But he erased every one of those point-from-the-score opportunities for Ruud with the kind of quick, soft-handed reflex volleys he repeatedly displayed. And with the help of a series of shafted shots from a toned-looking Ruud in the ensuing tie-break, Alcaraz stormed through to the end of that set.
“He played too well on those points. We’ve seen it many times: he appears when it’s necessary,” said Ruud. “When things get tight, he makes great shots.”
A break in the fourth was all Alcaraz needed to seal victory in the only Grand Slam final between two players seeking both a first major championship and first place in the ATP’s 1973 computerized rankings.
The winner was guaranteed first in Monday’s leaderboard; the loser was guaranteed second.
“Both Carlos and I knew what we were playing for. We knew what was at stake,” said Ruud. “I think that fits. I’m obviously disappointed that I’m not number 1, but number 2 isn’t bad either.”
He is now 0-2 in the Slam final after finishing second to Nadal at the French Open in June.
Ruud was well back near the wall to return serve but also as the points progressed, much more so than Alcaraz who attacked whenever he could. Alcaraz went to Ruud’s weaker side, the backhand, and was successful with that, especially on serve.
Last but not least, Ruud gets the sportsmanship award for conceding a point he knew he didn’t deserve. It came while he was 4-3 down in the opener; he ran for a short ball that bounced twice before Ruud’s racquet touched him.
The game went on and Alcaraz hesitated and then missed his answer. But Ruud told the chair umpire what happened and gave the point to Alcaraz, who gave his opponent a thumbs-up and applauded along with the spectators to acknowledge the move.
Alcaraz certainly seems like a rare talent, possessing an enviable all-court game, a mix of ground-hitting power with a willingness to push forward and close points with his volleying skills. He won 34 points out of 45 when he went to the net on Sunday. He’s a threat on serve – he delivered 14 aces at up to 128mph on Sunday – and is coming back, earning 11 break points and converting three.
According to Ruud, Alcaraz showed “incredible fighting spirit and will to win”.
Make no mistake: Ruud is no slob either. There’s a reason he’s the youngest man since Nadal to reach two major finals in one season, and managed to win a 55-shot point in Friday’s semifinals, the longest of the tournament.
But this was Alcaraz’s time to shine under the lights.
For the context of the rankings, it’s helpful to know that Novak Djokovic hasn’t played at the US Open or Australian Open this year, hasn’t been able to travel to those countries because he’s not vaccinated against COVID-19, and didn’t receive a rank promotion for his has Wimbledon championship because points were not offered for anyone after the All England Club banned athletes from Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is significant that Alcaraz is the first teenage boy to take the No. 1 spot. Nobody else made it. Not Nadal, not Djokovic, not Federer, not Sampras. No one.
As a final serve winner bounced off Ruud’s body, Alcaraz flopped onto his back on the court, then rolled onto his stomach and covered his face with his hands. He then went into the stands to hug with his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former No. 1 who won the French Open in 2003 and reached the final of that year’s US Open, and others, all the while crying.
For the first time, you only get to number 1 once. You only win a first Grand Slam title once. Many people expect Alcaraz to celebrate these kinds of exploits in the years to come.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Britain’s Alfie Hewett beat Shingo Kunieda to win the US Open title in men’s wheelchair singles.
Hewett, 24, ended Kunieda’s hopes of a calendar grand slam with a 7-6 (2), 6-1 win and won his sixth major singles trophy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/34574972/carlos-alcaraz-19-wins-us-open-become-youngest-world-no-1-men-tennis-history Carlos Alcaraz, 19, wins US Open to become youngest world No. 1 in men’s tennis history