Carlos Alcaraz has made history. The 19-year-old phenom won the US Open by beating Kasper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3, and will become the youngest player ever to climb to number one in the ATP. ratings.
Alcaraz looked less sharp than in the last few matches, but that’s likely because he played three five-set matches in a row to get into the final match. Regardless, whenever he plays, it’s like he uses video game cheat codes on himself, and Sunday was no exception.
But Ruud matched him shot after shot and found ways to beat him reliably. This has made tennis extremely interesting, perhaps one of the best in the entire tournament, and that’s saying a lot considering the phenomenal matches we’ve seen over the past two weeks.
The first set was tight, but Alcaraz got it right. He had the right shot and the right plan to put Ruud in the hole early in the match.
Alcaraz won the first set, but Ruud turned everything around in the second set. He began to adapt and find ways to defeat Alcaraz. He froze Alcaraz in two games as he began to merge games en route to a second set victory.
At times in the second set, Alcaraz looked like he was exhausted. In the last week, he has expended much more energy than Ruud. But not like that. Alcaraz completely destroyed everyone in the third set. Every time it looked like he might be out of the game, he regrouped and attacked. Ruud took a 4-3 lead and then Alcaraz equalized. Ruud took the lead 5-4 and Alcaraz equalized again. He then knocked out two set points from Ruud to level the score at 6-6 before destroying him in a tiebreak.
Just one set away from victory, Alcaraz somehow turned on the jets, drawing energy from nowhere. He played every second of every shot and every point. He remained positive and clear, and his ability to get rid of slips and mistakes was incredible. No matter what happened, he continued to carry out his game plan. Even when Ruud blocked him and closed the gap to 5-3, he kept moving forward. One game later, he won the title with an incredible serve.
After the final point was scored and his initial celebration ended, Alcaraz began to climb the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium in search of his team. When he found them, they gave him a big hug and he continued to share the moment with every person in his box.
Alcaraz opens a new era of stars
And it doesn’t end there for Alcaraz. He is the youngest person to reach a Grand Slam final since Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest to reach a US Open men’s singles final since Pete Sampras in 1990. Coincidentally, Nadal and Sampras won Grand Slam titles at 19.
Alcaraz, who has won four titles this year (and is the only player to beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on clay court), is part of a new generation of stars emerging as the time for the Big Three draws to a close. That’s what this US Open and this final was for. Alcaraz has cemented his status as the most creative and exciting player on the men’s tour. Ruud has become a major threat, having won two Grand Slam finals this year. Francis Tiafoe has shown that he has what it takes to compete with the best players. Yannick Sinner is creative and precise, which was shown to the fullest during his epic, record-breaking match against Alcaraz in the quarter-finals.
For Alcaraz, everything worked out at the US Open. Disappointing defeats at the French Open, where he lost to Zverev in the quarter-finals, and at Wimbledon, where Sinner beat him in the fourth round, were just memories, experiences that helped him get where he is. As a clay specialist, he was expected to play at Roland Garros, but his early departure was in doubt. His loss there was like the story of Alcaraz’s year took a wrong turn, as in Choose Your Own Adventure.
But no matter what anyone thinks or expects from Alcaraz, he is the only one in charge of his story. He creates his own story. And in the story that Alcaraz wrote, he didn’t win his first major late. He won it on time. And it looks like there’s a lot more to come.