Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz claimed his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open on Sunday and became the youngest man to ascend to the world No. 1 ranking.
The 19-year-old dragged his weary body to a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 victory over Norway’s Casper Ruud in the final.
“This is something I dreamed of since I was a kid, to be No. 1 in the world, to be the champion at a Grand Slam,” Alcaraz said in an on-court interview.
“All the hard work that I did with my team, with my family.
“I’m just 19 years old so all of the tough decisions are with my parents and my team as well.
“This is something that is really, really special for me.”
Alcaraz, the first teenager to claim the top ranking, is the youngest Grand Slam men’s champion since countryman Rafael Nadal at the 2005 French Open, after a performance which yielded 55 winners and 14 aces. Nadal was 19 years and two days old when he beat Argentine Mariano Puerta in the final.
On a day of landmarks, he is also the youngest champion in New York since Pete Sampras in 1990. Sampras was 19 years and 28 days old when he tamed Andre Agassi to lift his first Grand Slam title.
Having replaced Russian Daniil Medvedev at the top of the rankings, he is the youngest world No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973, breaking the mark set by Lleyton Hewitt, who was 20 when he became No. 1 in 2001.
And he intends to ensure his stay at the top lasts.
“Right now I’m enjoying the moment. I’m enjoying having the trophy in my hands but of course, I’m hungry for more,” said Alcaraz. “I want to be in the top for many, many weeks and I hope many years. I’m going to work hard again after this week, these amazing two weeks. I’m going to fight for more of this.”
Ruud was trying to become the first Norwegian to capture the top spot but was unable to match Alcaraz’s firepower under the closed roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The French Open finalist will rise to No. 2.
Sunday’s final was the first featuring two men competing for both their first Grand Slam title and the world No. 1 ranking.
It was a gruelling tournament for Alcaraz who claimed the record for most time spent on court at a single Grand Slam event, passing the 23 hours and 21 minutes it took Kevin Anderson to finish runner-up at Wimbledon in 2018.
“I always say that there is no time to be tired in the final round of a Grand Slam or any tournament,” said Alcaraz, who spent 23 hours and 40 minutes on court over his seven matches.
“You have to give everything you have inside.”
Defeat for Ruud, who was also vying for the world No. 1 ranking, was his second in a Slam final this year after he was routed by Nadal in the French Open.
“We knew what we were playing for, we knew what was at stake,” the Norwegian said. “Number two is not too bad either. I will continue to chase for my first Grand Slam and the No. 1 world ranking.”
With the roof closed, the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd observed a moving moment’s silence on the 21st anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks before the final got off to a tentative start.
Both men saved break points in their opening service games before Alcaraz gained the only break of the first set for a key 3-1 lead.
Ruud dropped the set but triumphed in terms of sportsmanship when he called a double bounce on himself in the eighth game, conceding the point to the Spaniard.
Alcaraz served it out to love and a one-set lead courtesy of his 13 winners to six for the Norwegian.
The Spanish teenager, who went into the final with a 2-0 winning record over Ruud, squandered a break point at 2-2 in the second set.
Ruud made him pay, edging ahead for 4-2 and then levelling the final on a second set point after another careless Alcaraz drop-shot opened the court invitingly for the Norwegian.
At that moment, Alcaraz had been on court at the tournament for almost 22 hours, passing the mark set by Andy Murray when the Briton claimed the 2012 title.
He was ahead for 2-0 in the third set before Ruud hit back.
The 23-year-old Norwegian had two set points in an 11-minute 12th game but was unable to convert as Alcaraz put away inch-perfect, back-to-back volleys.
Alcaraz made the most of his reprieve, racing through to his first tiebreak success of the tournament as Ruud’s game fell suddenly apart.
The Spaniard sensed his chance, breaking for 4-2 in the fourth set before taking his aces count to 12 to lead 5-2.
Ruud held to love but Alcaraz claimed his slice of history on a second match point before collapsing to the court in celebration.
– AFP, REUTERS