Carlos Alcaraz Wins First Major at US Open, Becomes Youngest #1 in ATP History

Carlos Alcaraz 2022 US Open
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Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud are both future starts of the sport, but circumstances had them arrive early as they battled for the US Open title with the World #1 ranking on the line as well. This tournament saw multiple early upsets, plus no Novak Djokovic (who cannot enter the United States as he is not vaccinated), so the draw was very open. These two men–both certain future stars–took full advantage, reaching the final.
For Alcaraz it was the first of what will be many Major finals. For Ruud, his second–he reached the final of the French Open earlier this year (lost to Nadal). That didn’t matter, though, as it was pretty clear who was the better player on the day.

Carlos Alcaraz vs Casper Ruud

The match started slightly nervy, though neither player was particularly poor. Neither serve was dominant, and mistakes crept into rallies from each player. Ruud eventually gave up an early break, which he was never able to get back. An exciting set, full of exciting points, ended 6-4 in favor of the Spaniard. History looked on its way for the Juan Carlos Ferrero protege, and it was unclear what would stop it.

Ruud was not playing poorly, but he did not quite seem at his best. The Norwegian moved well and played with good depth, but his characteristic elite groundstrokes weren’t full there. Then he seemed to turn the match around with this point:

After that, a winded Alcaraz missed a volley, and Ruud capitalized to take the next two points and the break. He didn’t let off, even with a shaky following game. The Norwegian held, then he broke Alcaraz yet again to take the second set 6-2. We were all even at one set apiece.

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Third and Fourth Sets

Ruud could not keep the momentum up to begin the third set. He immediately fell down 0-40, and while he saved two break points he couldn’t save the third. The match became a far more tactical one, with both men content to keep the ball deep and play extended rallies–though Ruud was more defensive than Alcaraz for a while. It was effective for Ruud to end the second set, and it was effective again to earn the break back and tie the third set at 2-2. The set continued apace, with changing tactics and interesting points, until the 5-6 game. Alcaraz served to stay in the set, and the match really took off. The pair played numerous highlight-reel points in a game that lasted about ten minutes, where the Spaniard saved two set points before holding to force a tiebreak.

The tiebreak, unfortunately, was nowhere near as thrilling as the set. Alcaraz did fine on his serves while Ruud sprayed errors on three of his, giving the Spaniard a 7-1 win in the tiebreak. Alcaraz was now one set away from history.

Both players served well to start the fourth set, but Alcaraz had the crowd firmly behind him and could sense the coming win. In the sixth game, he pounced. Three massive returns set up points, and one poor error from Ruud at 30-30 was all it took. Alcaraz had a 4-2 lead and just needed to hold twice more to win the US Open.

Ruud fought, but the teenage Spaniard brought out huge serve after huge serve when it mattered most. Three games later, “Carlitos” had a 6-4 2-6 7-6(1) 6-3 victory and was a Grand Slam champion.

What’s Next?

Perhaps some will question whether Alcaraz really deserves this #1 ranking. After all, Novak Djokovic would certainly still be #1 had the Serbian not missed most of the season due to vaccination requirements. It doesn’t really matter, though. Alcaraz was always going to get to #1 eventually, and the record books will always show that he–no longer Lleyton Hewitt–is the youngest #1 in ATP history. (Martina Hingis holds the record for youngest #1 ever; she was just 17 when she became WTA #1.)

Djokovic will likely be back next year, so it’s possibly too early to expect Alcaraz to dominate the Tour as so many expect him to eventually. The young Spaniard will have his chances, though, and expect him to be a serious factor in every big tournament for years to come. And with the way Casper Ruud performed this week (and all year), expect the Norwegian to be one as well.

Main Photo from Getty.