It was nearly 2 a.m. on the U.S. Open (in fact it was), and Carlos Alcaraz was cheerfully giving a news conference after his latest five-set thriller.
“Sometimes you’ve to provide you with a little bit magic, ?” he said.
We do know, and though we may not have been one hundred pc certain before Alcaraz returned to Recent York for his second U.S. Open, the evidence is overwhelming now after his bewitching run to the lads’s singles final, through which he’ll face Casper Ruud on Sunday.
Alcaraz, just 19, has made the spectacular rally and the acrobatic shot seem routine under extraordinary pressure. He has done it with the gang of nearly 24,000 in Arthur Ashe Stadium supporting him, saving a match point against Jannik Sinner within the quarterfinals. He has worked the identical sort of magic with a majority of the gang against him, because it was on Friday night when he played Frances Tiafoe.
But even Tiafoe, an American within the midst of a breakthrough of his own, was left either wide-eyed or covering his mouth in disbelief at a number of the winners that Alcaraz conjured on the run. Alcaraz is at his most dangerous and entertaining when he’s on the scramble.
Against Sinner within the quarterfinals, he hit a behind-the-back shot in midair and went on to win the purpose. Against Tiafoe within the semifinals, Alcaraz got here up with lunging angles, forehand passing shots off balls that seemed already out of reach, and produced topspin lobs from deeply compromised positions that landed beyond Tiafoe’s reach directly on the baseline.
“Obviously I might have loved to win tonight, but I feel tennis won tonight,” Tiafoe said after drying his eyes and putting the transcendent tournament and infrequently marvelous match in perspective.
However the tennis is just not quite finished, and Alcaraz has not yet taken the ultimate step in his journey from Spanish prodigy to Grand Slam champion.
Yet another match awaits, and the ultimate against Ruud, a 23-year-old Norwegian, is not going to only be a duel for the U.S. Open title. It should even be a match for the No. 1 rating.
Whoever wins will rise to the highest spot for the primary time: an unprecedented scenario in a serious final because the ATP computer rankings were created in 1973.
An Alcaraz loss to Tiafoe would have guaranteed Ruud the No. 1 rating, even without taking the title, but Ruud said he preferred it this fashion, calling it “the best situation” and “what’s most fair.”
It definitely adds an additional layer of import to the occasion.
“I all the time dreamed of being No. 1,” Alcaraz said. “Obviously to be No. 1 without winning a Slam is complicated to do, but since I used to be little, it was all the time No. 1.”
Now, he has a likelihood to realize each on Sunday. It may appear premature that Alcaraz or Ruud reach the summit considering Rafael Nadal won the primary two majors of the yr and Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon. But Nadal and Djokovic have missed big chunks of this season (and Nadal missed the previous few months of 2021 as well).
Djokovic got no rating points for his Wimbledon victory after points were stripped from the tournament due to its ban on Russian and Belarusian players. Djokovic was also unable to play within the Australian Open, the U.S. Open or 4 Masters 1000 events in North America because he remained unvaccinated for Covid-19. Within the meantime, Alexander Zverev, a German contender for the highest spot, has not played on tour since tearing ankle ligaments within the semifinals of the French Open in June.
But that’s hardly the fourth-ranked Alcaraz’s or seventh-ranked Ruud’s doing. They’ve been durable and consistently successful (also they are each vaccinated).
Ruud is the primary Norwegian man to achieve a U.S. Open singles final. Alcaraz is the youngest man to achieve a Grand Slam singles final since Nadal on the French Open in 2005, and he can be the youngest man to achieve a U.S. Open singles final since Pete Sampras in 1990. Nadal and Sampras each won the titles at age 19.
Alcaraz deserves to be the favourite on Sunday even when Ruud has the sting in experience. Ruud has already played one major final, losing the French Open final in June in straight sets as Nadal claimed his 14th singles title at Roland Garros (which still makes me shake my head).
“He obviously gave me a very good beating,” Ruud said. “After the ultimate, I said if I ever reach one again, I hope it’s not Rafa on the opposite side of the court in Roland Garros, since it’s type of an not possible task, I feel, for any player. I’m glad that it’s not Rafa on clay.”
But Alcaraz isn’t any walk in Central Park. Like many Spaniards, he learned the sport on clay, however the hardcourt looks like his best surface. Alcaraz likes to take big cuts and hit the ball very early, and the true bounce of a hardcourt allows him more precision. It also suits his movement, allowing him to push off and alter direction in a flash.
“I never played a man who moves in addition to him,” said the 24-year-old Tiafoe, who can be certainly one of the quickest players on tour.
Alcaraz’s ability to increase rallies puts tremendous pressure on the opposition to attempt to play closer to the lines, which lured Tiafoe into errors on Friday, because it had lured many before him.
Ruud, the son of the previous ATP skilled Christian Ruud, knows the perils. He’s 0-2 against Alcaraz and lost to him, 7-5, 6-4, in the ultimate of the Miami Open on a hardcourt in April.
“If I need to beat Carlos, I’ll have to play very precise with all of the shots that I hit and particularly try to maintain him a little bit bit further back within the court, to play with good depth and length on all my shots,” Ruud said. “If he steps in, he can do anything with the ball. He can rip a winner. He also has great touch with the drop shot. I feel he has the most effective drop shots on tour.”
Consistent depth might limit the drop shots, but mere depth doesn’t keep Alcaraz from ripping groundstroke winners. He’ll punish a shot that lacks punch or slice crisp enough to skid low.
But Ruud is a smooth and increasingly complete player with a devastating forehand of his own and an improving serve. Unlike Alcaraz, he has played only one five-setter on this U.S. Open.
Alcaraz has played three five-setters in a row, all of which finished late or ridiculously late. He beat Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, at 2:23 a.m. on Tuesday; he beat Sinner at 2:50 a.m. on Thursday in what was the newest finish ever on the U.S. Open; and he then beat Tiafoe shortly before midnight on Friday.
Alcaraz, in just his second full season on tour, is now 8-1 in five-set matches and 5-0 at Flushing Meadows.
Though he showed no signs of slowing down on Friday night, he has played significantly more tennis in Recent York this yr than Ruud.
He has also played more highlight-reel tennis than anybody else, even the departed Australian Nick Kyrgios, and with a positive energy and sportsmanlike attitude that make him a much less conflicted viewing experience than Kyrgios.
Alcaraz and Ruud, who has also trained in Spain, are on friendly terms, and it might be quite a shock if their final were anything but family fare.
“It makes me glad to transmit good values to the young,” Alcaraz said.
A Spanish reporter identified that Alcaraz was still moderately young himself.
“In tennis, you possibly can mature quickly,” he said. “At tournaments, perhaps I feel a bit older, with more responsibilities, let’s say. But once I’m at home with my family, my friends and the people I even have known since I used to be little, I feel like a 19-year-old kid.”
Nonetheless he feels in Recent York, if he wins on Sunday, Alcaraz shall be the youngest No. 1 in ATP history.