Carlos Alcaraz is a Grand Slam champion. The Spaniard defeated Casper Ruud in four sets, 6-4 2-6 7-6(1) 6-3, to not only win the US Open but also become the new world No. 1.
The 19-year-old, so often referred to as a ‘rising star’ is certainly no longer that after he claimed his maiden major title at Flushing Meadows and usurped Daniil Medvedev atop the ATP world rankings.
For Ruud, it was another hugely impressive run to what was a second Grand Slam final after he came up short against Rafael Nadal at the French Open earlier in the summer. He has again demonstrated that he belongs right near the top of the sport.
It was an error-strewn opening from both players, who each looked understandably nervous in their first Grand Slam final. Ruud managed to save two break points and hold in the opening game of the match despite a few sloppy shots.
Alcaraz forced the first break of serve in the match and consolidated to assume a 4-2 lead before closing it out ruthlessly. Incredibly, it meant that the Spaniard has now won at least one set in 65 consecutive matches.
Ruud found his rhythm in the second set as the fifth seed hit back from 30-0 down to break his opponent in clinical fashion and seize the momentum.
Alcaraz could not find a response in the second set and mustered just two games as Ruud hauled himself back on terms with the match intriguingly poised.
As is so often the case in matches involving Alcaraz, the momentum swung wildly yet again at the start of the third set as he re-established control with an immediate break of serve, only for Ruud to respond shortly afterwards.
Midway through the third set, both players had won 67 points to demonstrate how finely poised the contest was. But once in a tie-break, Alcaraz suddenly found another level with huge hitting and intensity as he conceded just a single point.
At 3-2 up in the fourth set, the decisive moment arrived as Alcaraz launched a vicious attack on the Ruud serve to break once more and begin his march towards closing out the match. Given he had prevailed in three successive five-setters prior to the final, he was eager to wrap things up swiftly.
Ruud could not find a way back on the Alcaraz serve as he completed a famous victory, and for the second time this season, the Norwegian had to concede that he had come up just short in a Grand Slam showpiece after he lost to Nadal at Roland-Garros.
“It’s tough to explain everything,” Ruud said in his speech after the match. “Things had been going so well, and of course, I was so excited for it.
“Today was a special evening where both Carlos and I knew what was at stake. It’s fun that the finalists will be No. 2 and No. 1 in the world tomorrow. I think it’s fitting.
“I’m disappointed, of course, that I’m not No. 1 but No. 2, it’s not too bad either. So I’m happy with that number and I will continue to chase for my first Grand Slam and the No. 1 ranking.”
For Alcaraz, this was a momentous match in his burgeoning career as he clinched his maiden Grand Slam title on the biggest stage the sport has to offer inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It’s something I dreamed of since I was a kid, to be No. 1 in the world and be champion of a Grand Slam,” Alcaraz said post-match.
“It’s something I worked very hard for with my team and family. It’s tough to speak right now, there’s a lot of emotions. This is something that is really special for me.
“My mum is not here and my grandfather,” he continued, with tears in his eyes. “I was thinking about them. A lot of my family and team are here but a lot of people from my family, they couldn’t come here to watch the final and some matches, so I was thinking of all of them.”
There will surely be many more major titles to come for the precocious Spaniard now that he has opened his account in New York. He will officially become the youngest man ever to top the ATP rankings on Monday.