NEW YORK — Carlos Alcaraz used his combination of moxie and maturity to beat Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 in Sunday’s US Open final to win his first Grand Slam title at 19 and become the youngest man to be ranked No.
Alcaraz is a Spaniard who was playing in his eighth major and second at Flushing Meadows but has already garnered a lot of attention as someone seen as 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 was serenaded by choruses of “Ole, Ole, Ole! Carlos!” Which reverberated through the closed roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium – and Alcaraz often waved supporting spectators to turn up the volume.
He only briefly showed signs of fatigue after having to go three straight sets to reach the title match, something no one had done in New York in 30 years. He spent a total of 23 hours and 40 minutes on the court in the tournament, the most by a male player during a major tournament since the start of 2000.
Alcaraz lost the second set and faced a pair of set points as they were down 6-5 in the third. But he erased each of those set-point opportunities for Ruud with the kinds of quick-thinking, soft volleys he repeatedly displayed. And with the help of a series of rod shots from a tight-looking Ruud in the ensuing tiebreaker, Alcaraz surged until the end of that set.
A break in the fourth was enough for Alcaraz to seal victory in the only Grand Slam final between two players seeking both a first major championship and the top spot in the computerized ATP rankings, which dates back to 1973.
Ruud is a 23-year-old Norwegian who is now 0-2 in Slam finals. He was Nadal’s runner-up at Roland-Garros in June.
Ruud stood well back near the wall to serve, but also during points, much more so than Alcaraz, who attacked when he could. Alcaraz tackled Ruud’s weaker side, the backhand, and found success that way, especially on serve.
If nothing else, Ruud gets the sportsmanship award for conceding a point he knew he didn’t deserve. It happened when he was leading 4-3 in the first set; he ran towards a short ball which bounced twice before Ruud’s racquet touched it.
The game continued and Alcaraz hesitated then missed his answer. But Ruud told the chair umpire what had happened, giving the point to Alcaraz, who gave his opponent a thumbs-up and cheered along with the spectators to acknowledge the move.
Alcaraz certainly seems like a rare talent, possessing enviable all-court play, a blend of groundstroke power with a willingness to drive forward and close points with his volley ability. He won 34 of 45 points when he went to the net on Sunday. He’s a threat serving – he delivered 14 aces at 128mph on Sunday – and coming back, earning 11 break points, converting three.
Don’t get me wrong: Ruud is no slouch either. There’s a reason he’s the youngest man since Nadal to reach two major finals in one season and managed to earn a tournament-longest 55-point run in Friday’s semi-final.
But it was Alcaraz’s time to shine, his turn to show the speed and stamina, skill and composure of a champion.
When a final service winner peeked past Ruud’s frame, Alcaraz dropped onto his back on the court, then rolled onto his stomach, covering his face with his hands. Then he went to the stands for a hug with his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former No. 1 himself who won the French Open in 2003 and reached the final of the US Open that year, and others, crying all the time.
You only get to #1 once for the first time. You only win a first Grand Slam title once. Many people expect Alcaraz to celebrate such feats for years to come.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.