Carlos Alcaraz cemented his burgeoning status as the rising star of men’s tennis by claiming a maiden ATP Masters 1000 title with victory over Casper Ruud at the Miami Open.
The 14th seed triumphed 7-5 6-4 in one hour and 52 minutes to become the first Spanish man to win the tournament.
The win also sees the 18-year-old break Novak Djokovic’s record, set in 2007 at the age of 19 years and 10 months, as the youngest male champion in Miami Open history.
Alcaraz will now rise to a career-high No. 11 in the world and has rapidly emerged as a major threat for the sport’s biggest titles heading into the clay swing. Ruud, who was competing in his 10th ATP Tour final, will move to seventh in the rankings.
Reflecting on his victory, Alcaraz said: “It’s too soon to describe my feelings right now. I have no words. It’s so special to win my first Masters 1000 (title) here in Miami.
“I knew that Casper was playing very well and he has big forehand. I tried to attack and play to his backhand first and try not let him dominate the match. My forehand down the line and backhand down line were key for me.”
It was a first ever Masters 1000 final for both players, so nerves were to be expected, and it was the teenager who showed the most obvious signs early on. The Spaniard’s forehand malfunctioned badly with a series of unforced errors to allow Ruud to break and race into a 3-0 lead.
Alcaraz slowly found his rhythm and an error of judgement from the Norwegian, when he inexplicably allowed his opponent’s defensive lob to drop in, offered up a break-back point. To his credit, Ruud produced clutch tennis and unloaded a blistering forehand winner to pull off the escape and maintain his advantage at 4-1.
However, Alcaraz was now fully locked-in, with the Miami crowd firmly in his corner, and he took advantage of a shanked forehand from a suddenly flustered Ruud to break back as part of a run of three games that saw him level at 4-4.
The 23-year-old sixth seed steadied the ship and was a whisker away from snaring a set point on the Alcaraz serve with a backhand that landed just long. It proved to be a significant moment as the Spaniard dug out the hold before a sensational crosscourt forehand winner laid the foundations for him to break for a 6-5 lead.
The 14th seed didn’t have it all his own way but managed to serve out a rollercoaster, one hour and one minute opener on a third set point after fending off a break-back opportunity for Ruud.
The teenager looked to maintain his momentum right from the off in set two and took advantage of some poorly judged forays into the net from his opponent to break immediately before roaring into 3-0 lead as a forlorn-looking Ruud coughed up the double break.
The world No. 8 kept battling and gave himself a slither of hope when he nicked one break back on a sixth opportunity following an epic tussle in the fourth game of the set. Ruud then reduced the arrears to 3-2 before calling the trainer for a massage on a tight muscle close to the hip.
It did little to alter the course of the match as Alcaraz kept his nerve to serve out victory and become the third-youngest ATP Masters 1000 champion in series history, behind Michael Chang and Rafael Nadal.