NEW YORK. Carlos Alcaraz Lerma always told his grandson that it would take “head, heart and guts” to win tennis matches and become the best player in the world.

And in the US Open men’s singles final on Sunday, Carlos Alcaraz had to play those three to beat the valiant Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3.

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With this victory, the 19-year-old Alcaraz will become the first teenager to achieve world number one since the creation of the ATP rankings in 1973.

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He seems to be just getting started and is about to leave an indelible mark on the sport.

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“It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid – to be number one in the world and to be a Grand Slam champion – that’s what I worked really hard for,” Alcaraz said on the court afterwards.

There were moments during this final – mostly at the end of the second set – when Alcaraz looked like a nobody. It looks like the triple win in the five-set matches leading up to this match has taken its toll.

Toward the end of the third set, it looked like Ruud’s impeccable accuracy could tip the scales in favor of the Norwegian. But then Alcaraz – as he has done here many times – went to another level, won a remarkable point to go to a tie-break, and then beat Ruud 7-1.

The situation changed, Alcaraz used the energy of the crowd, and this helped him overcome the line in the fourth round. Those heavy legs became light again, and Alcaraz took the heavenly shots we were used to.

Alcaraz has the ability to make the unbelievable almost normal. With all the snappy forehands, beautiful crosses and sharp volleys at the net, you have an attractive superstar who could be a mainstay in Grand Slam finals for the next 15 years.

When you look at certain shots in the last two weeks – like that behind the back shot against Yannick Sinner, and that moment against Francis Tiafoe to put him on a tiebreak in the first set where he somehow hit the winner to the right of the line from the ridiculous dangerous position – Alcaraz has this ability to completely immerse all observers in the moment, leaving his jaws on the floor and involuntarily stretching his arms. It’s special.

The Spaniard was the clear favorite for this final. And he bet on the hype.

But this does not detract from Ruud, who threw everything at Alcaraz. His time will come at the Grand Slam. Having only won six games in his loss to Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros final, Ruud was far more level-headed against Alcaraz. But despite his brilliant play, Alcaraz had a little more.

Alcaraz won this because he managed to stay ahead in the key moments of the match. So many times in this tournament, we’ve seen Alcaraz reach for the return game and they just drop in. But not today: he couldn’t rely on those moments of tennis luck. So, in order to win, Alcaraz had to win in arm wrestling and peak at the right moments.

This victory was also the result of a marathon week for Alcaraz. By the time he won on Sunday night, he had spent more time on the court than any other player in a major tournament since 2000. To reach the final, he needed to defeat Marin Cilic and Sinner, who went the distance to finish in 2:23:00 and 02:50 respectively. Then Alcaraz’s semi-final victory over Thiafo also lasted five sets and lasted 4 hours and 19 minutes.

Alcaraz knew that if Sunday’s match ended in five, he was already there and did it three times this week. After that, he was asked if he was tired.

“A little,” he said. “But there is no time to get tired in a Grand Slam final – you have to give it your all on the court and everything you have inside. This is what I have worked hard for.”

And while his sleep patterns must have been disastrous, he rarely seemed disturbed. There were very few moments when his attention vanished into disappointment on the court.

Partly it depends on him, but partly on the team around him. In the final game, with Alcaraz in contention for the title, he went 30-0 up. Those who were in his box began to worry. Alcaraz coach Juan Carlos Ferrero gestured for everyone to calm down. Even if victory was at arm’s length, nothing was guaranteed until it was made.

A couple of minutes later, Alcaraz lay on the floor, overwhelmed with emotions after winning the title. He then made his way through the crowd to stand up and greet his team.

“All the major decisions are made by my parents and the team – that’s really special to me,” Alcaraz said after. Then he went downstairs again, and when he sat down again, tears flowed again through the smile. He later said that he thought of his mother Virginia and grandfather, who failed to qualify for the final.

This victory should be ominous for his competitors. He was the youngest winner here since Pete Sampras in 1990, the first of 14 singles titles. Alcaraz has the ability and temperament to do something like this.

We have been worrying for so long about what the future of men’s tennis will look like in an era after Roger Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Well, don’t worry anymore. He is in good hands and built on mind, heart and courage.