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US Open 2022: Carlos Alcaraz beats Casper Ruud to win maiden Grand Slam title, becomes youngest world No 1

Carlos Alcaraz already has attracted plenty of attention as someone considered the Next Big Thing in a sport dominated for decades by the Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. 

US Open 2022: Carlos Alcaraz beats Casper Ruud to win maiden Grand Slam title, becomes youngest world No 1

Walking out for his first Grand Slam final at age 19, Carlos Alcaraz bumped fists with fans leaning over a railing along the path leading to the Arthur Ashe Stadium court. Moments later, after the coin toss, Alcaraz turned to sprint to the baseline for the warmup, until being beckoned back to the net by the chair umpire for the customary pre-match photos. Alcaraz is imbued with boundless enthusiasm and energy, not to mention skill, speed, stamina and sangfroid. And now he’s a U.S. Open champion and the No. 1 player in men’s tennis.

Using his uncommon combination of moxie and maturity, Alcaraz beat Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 on Sunday to both earn the trophy at Flushing Meadows and become the youngest man to lead the ATP rankings. “Well, this is something that I dreamed of since I was a kid,” said Alcaraz, whom folks of a certain age might still consider a kid. “It's something I worked really, really hard (for). It's tough to talk right now. A lot of emotions.”

Alcaraz already has attracted plenty of attention as someone considered the Next Big Thing in a sport dominated for decades by the Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. The Spaniard was serenaded by choruses of “Olé, Olé, Olé! Carlos!” that reverberated off the arena's closed roof — and Alcaraz often motioned for the spectators to get louder. There were a couple of magical points that drew standing ovations, including one Alcaraz lost with a laser of an on-the-run forehand while ending up face-down on his belly.

He only briefly showed signs of fatigue from having to get through three consecutive five-setters in the three rounds right before the final; no one had gone through that ardous a route on the way to the title in New York in 30 years.

Alcaraz went five sets against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the fourth round, ending at 2:23 am Tuesday; against Jannik Sinner in the quarterfinals, a 5-hour, 15-minute thriller that ended at 2:50 am Friday after Alcaraz needed to save a match point; and against Frances Tiafoe in the semifinals.

“You have to give everything on court. You have to give everything you have inside. I worked really, really hard to earn it,” Alcaraz said. “It’s not time to be tired.”

This was not a stroll to the finish, though. Alcaraz dropped the second set and faced a pair of set points while down 6-5 in the third. Could have been an outcome-altering moment.

But he erased each of those point-from-the-set opportunities for Ruud with the sorts of quick-reflex, soft-hand volleys he repeatedly displayed. And with help from a series of shanked shots by a tight-looking Ruud in the ensuing tiebreaker, Alcaraz surged to the end of that set.

One break in the fourth was all it took for Alcaraz to seal the victory in the only Grand Slam final between two players seeking both a first major championship and the top spot in the ATP’s computerized rankings, which date to 1973.

The winner was guaranteed to be first in Monday's rankings; the loser was guaranteed to be second.

(with PTI inputs)

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