TThen came the crucial game of the match, in which both men rose to a fabulous level of tennis. Alcaraz served at 5-6 in the third and he must have been desperate to avoid a misstep. After three consecutive five-setters, even a fourth might have been too much for this young Hercules.
Alcaraz defended the first set point with a sliding volley putaway and the second with a sharp overhead. Then, once in the tie-break, he harnessed the power to claim quick kills with his serves and returns. Despite his lack of height – at just six feet he is well below the tour average – Alcaraz can reach speeds of up to 130 mph, beating Ruud 14 to 4.
With the finish line now in sight, Alcaraz’s aches and pains disappeared and he sprinted to his 6-4, 2-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory in 3 hours and 20 minutes. He lay down on the field in the approved manner before climbing into the crowd for a group hug with his family and coaches. Then he leaned back in his chair, tears streaming down his cheeks as he remembered the people who weren’t there.
“My mother, she is not here, and my grandfather,” said Alcaraz during the presentation of the trophy. “I was thinking about them. A lot of family, our team, is here, but a lot of people from my family couldn’t come here to watch the final and I was thinking [about] all.
“This is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid,” Alcaraz added. “To be the number 1 in the world, to become a champion of a grand slam. All the hard work my team did, my family [did for] me – I am only 19 years old, so the tough decisions are with my parents and also with my team. This is something that is very, very special to me.”
Alcaraz wins the US Open, as it happened