The future of tennis arrived on Sunday at 7:38 p.m. on the racket of Carlos Alcaraz, who won the US Open men’s singles, heralding the beginning of a new era in the game.
Alcaraz, the 19-year-old Spanish sensation, defeated Casper Ruud of Norway, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3, to win his first Grand Slam title, but probably not his last. Far, far from it. A crushed serve that came off his racket like a rocket. The era of Carlos Alcaraz has arrived.
Alcaraz’s rise to the top of the sport had been predicted for years, but it was breathtaking nonetheless. His forehand is powerful and his ability to chase balls that other players wouldn’t attempt is exciting to watch. He can hit the most lusty winners when he reaches them, and he takes pure joy out of competing even in the middle of the night. He has wowed audiences everywhere he has played during his first two years as a full-fledged professional, never more so than during the past two weeks of this unforgettable championship run.
The ride started in Australia in 2021, where he won his first Grand Slam match in the main draw on a track in the hinterland of Melbourne Park with just a few dozen fans in attendance. He was then outside the top 100 of the rankings. In Croatia, he won his first tour-level title last summer, and a month later in New York, he popped and dropshot his way to the quarter-finals as part of a teenage wave that took over the US Open.
This spring, he brought his first Masters-level titles, just below the Grand Slams, in Miami Gardens, Florida, and Madrid, beating Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches. Veterans who played him – and often lost – left the court for the first time, shaking their heads, their eyes glazed over, and without words about what they had experienced against Alcaraz.
On Sunday, he reached the pinnacle of the sport in grand manner on the biggest podium, with nearly 24,000 fans on his cart, as he not only claimed the men’s singles championship and $2.6 million in prize money, but also the No. 1 position in the world, becomes the youngest man to do so.
Alcaraz’s victory was the culmination of a tournament that will be remembered for many years to come. There was the farewell to Serena Williams, widely regarded as the greatest female player of modern times; the rise of Frances Tiafoe, the 24-year-old American son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, who knocked out Rafael Nadal and pushed Alcaraz to his limits in a five-set electric semifinal; and on Saturday, Iga Swiatek of Poland staked her claim as the new queen of the game, winning her third Grand Slam title in three years.
On Sunday there was Alcaraz, who did the usual Alcaraz stuff. He sprinted from one corner of the field to another, from the back wall to the edge of the net, whipping balls up and spinning, excite and amaze a crowd, sprinkled with the usual cast of celebrities to match the final round. Years later, Jerry Seinfeld, Anna Wintour, Questlove and Christie Brinkley can tell friends they were there when the teen won his first Grand Slam title.
The championship came at the end of an epic week for Alcaraz. To reach the final, he played three consecutive matches of five sets from Monday, which kept him on the field for about 15 hours. His quarterfinal victory over Jannik Sinner lasted until 2:50am on Thursday, the last finish in the history of a tournament infamous for its late endings. Two nights later, or rather the following night, he outlived Tiafoe in an emotional battle full of lung-busting rallies and miraculous point-saving shots to the very end.
“I’ve never played a player who moves so well,” said Tiafoe, who has played the best of the best. “He will be a problem for a very long time.”
Alcaraz started to run into problems for Ruud early on Sunday. Determined not to get into another marathon brawl against an opponent as stable and fit as anyone in the field, Alcaraz pressed the accelerator from the start, ran the net at every good chance and finished points with sharp volleys on the sharpest. corners. Given what had happened lately, Ruud had every right to expect Alcaraz’s unique tennis style. Instead, he got shock and awe.
Alcaraz took the early lead in the third game. With Ruud’s service, he shunned all inclinations to fight his way into the match. With a chance to deal early damage, Alcaraz fired up his afterburners and started growling with late-match urgency and volume with every shot.
After Alcaraz had achieved that first service break, Ruud grabbed his towel at the corner of the field where his father and coach, the former professional Christian Ruud, sat a few meters above the field. Team Ruud needed a Plan B.
It took Ruud 10 more games to find it, but he did it. A set deficit put pressure on Ruud Alcaraz by putting ball after ball at his feet, then giving an Alcaraz-esque display of strength and touch and covering the field to level the game after an hour and a half, as Alcaraz’s efficiency and his death trap shot, was temporarily missing.
Throughout the tournament, Alcaraz has displayed a rare ability to find the next gear to take on any challenge that comes his way. He only showed that late in the third set, during a crucial and for Ruud crushing piece.
With Alcaraz serving to stay in the set, Ruud poured all his strength and determination into a series of raking forehands that gave him two chances for a set lead. Each time, Alcaraz pushed forward and fearlessly pushed the chin of the field first. Losing his chance of a lead, Ruud crumpled in the tiebreak with a series of wild misses as Alcaraz scored seven consecutive points.
From there, holding back Alcaraz suddenly felt like it had all year round, a job akin to holding back an ocean. An absurd forehand, topspin into the air while Alcaraz was running at full speed, gave him the chance to take the crucial break in the fourth set. A point later, he did his guessing impression of a human board until Ruud couldn’t keep the ball in the field anymore.
After the last point, a crushing service winner, Alcaraz collapsed on his back. A minute later, he hugged his old coach – the former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero – who led the journey, along with Alcaraz’s father, himself a former pro, and his grandfather, who contributed to the development of the tennis club where he started playing tennis. play like a 3 year old. The journey has just begun.
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