Carlos Alcaraz entered the big leagues in New York on Sunday. 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7/1) 6-3 in a 3:20 win over Casper Ruud in the US Open final, the Spanish genius marked a historic first: becoming global No. 1 by taking the first major trophy.
The icing on the cake is Carlos Alcaraz, at 19 years and 4 months, the youngest leader in the history of the ATP ranking (created in 1973). It erases the record of early development in this field of Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who reached the world championship at the age of 20 years and 8 months.
Youngest winner since Nadal in 2005
The right-handed player from Murcia is not the youngest winner of the Grand Slam tournament, but the men’s record is held by Michael Chang (17 years 109 days during his 1989 victory in Paris). But Grand Slam-winning “juniors” are a rare commodity: the latest was Rafael Nadal, who was 19 years and 3 days when he won his first Roland Garros.
Carlos Alcaraz has had to deal with pressure as intense as the one that already accompanied Rafael Nadal in 2005 compared to his famous compatriot since their first outburst. His arrival was indeed anticipated by all observers, but it was unpredictable as Nadal was omnipotent. “The Big Three” Nadal/Federer/Djokovic.
Also read: Ruud-Alcaraz final at US Open to crown new world number one title
Almost 24 hours passed on the courts before the final
The new world number 1 had to digest his first failure – relative – at Roland-Garros, a tournament he came close to as favorite after his coronation at the Masters 1000 in Madrid. His defeat in the quarterfinals, against an absolutely in shape Alexander Zverev, reminded us that nothing is going to be easy for him.
Nothing came easy at this US Open Carlos Alcaraz either, combining Novak Djokovic’s flexibility and speed, Rafael Nadal’s aggressiveness and Roger Federer’s technical palette. His tremendous effort in his previous three games, which ended in five sets, almost cost him on Sunday.
The Spaniard was also the longest standing finalist in a Grand Slam tournament with a total of 23:40. The previous record was held by South African Kevin Anderson, who lost after spending 23:20 on the field in the 2018 Wimbledon final.
Also read: Carlos Alcaraz, the new king of New York nights
On the ropes in the third set
Smashed in the second set, Carlos Alcaraz missed a point against Jannik Sinner in a long 5:15 quarter-final and was on the ropes at the end of the third set. If he hadn’t cleared his two third set balls, would he have found the resources to get back on the score? Nothing is less sure.
But the question did not arise. Under the protection of former world number 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, he flew over the controversy in the third round tie-break and was suddenly confronted by the less rigid and more hesitant Casper Ruud. He continued his momentum in the fourth set.
Alcaraz showcased his talent, physical, tactical and tennis in all its glory. But the notoriously tough Norwegian wasn’t left out to provide the show. Several times, nearly 24,000 spectators rose to deafening applause for one or the other of the two actors.
Again calm and hard – especially on his serve – the Spanish player forced the decision by taking a break in the sixth game and kept this advantage until the end, slamming his second match point on a previously winning serve. .
As far as he can remember, Carlos Alcaraz has always wanted to be number one in the world. A quick-witted genius as well as a fierce fighter, the Spaniard became a genius at just 19, making him the prettiest in history.
On the field, the young man is going very, very, very fast. This returns all the balls furthest, strongest, wildest, most hopeless, allowing him to frequently disgust his opponents to score an inevitably lost point.
This talent is combined with an unbounded dedication that radiates humility and inevitably reminds us of Rafael Nadal’s qualities; Under 22 championship belts in the Grand Slam.
Adding their meteoric voyages in common – the two won their first Masters 1000 at 18 and the first Major at 19 – the cumbersome “next Nadal” sticker was quickly affixed to the back of the Alcaraz.
“It has been going on for years on social media. But I try not to be distracted: I think about myself, about my development. I’m from Murcia, he’s from Majorca. He’s left-handed, not me. When I was little, I was nothing but a warrior, I was small, I was weak, I wasn’t really strong,” he recalled to the Italian newspaper in June. Corriere della Serra.
“At the age of 5 or 6, Carlos already had natural qualities”
“Carlitos” started hitting his first balls alone at the age of four, either on the courts or against the wall of the tennis club run by his father, in El Palmar, near Murcia, where he still lives with his family and three brothers. “At the age of 5 or 6, Carlos already had natural qualities, very good coordination and above all the ability to learn very quickly. He could copy what he saw in court. That’s when we decided to develop his potential, ”said his father Trans World Sport.
He hit two birds with one stone, even breaking the record for reaching the top of the hierarchy in exactly 19 years, 4 months and 6 days, earning the title of first Major at Flushing Meadows on Sunday. All this less than five months after becoming the youngest top 10 player in history. Supersonic.
By a twist of fate, 19 years ago at the US Open, his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero hit the number one spot, beating Andre Agassi in the semi-finals before losing to Andy Roddick. Three months earlier the Spaniard had won at Roland-Garros and his future patronage was just born.
Fate brought them together because Ferrero took him under his wing at the age of 15 at his academy in Villena, a good hour from Alcaraz. “It changed my life. I’ve evolved, I’ve gotten tougher on the pitch” assures young talents.
“I know very well that I have to continue working”
Having become a rock, Alcaraz proved it by winning several marathons at the US Open. A year ago, for his first engagement, a thigh injury forced the Spaniard as a teenager to leave the neighborhoods after a gruesome course.
Launched though, the rocket has exceeded the speed of light this year, with four titles convened in the spring, with the first two Masters 1000s in Miami, followed by Madrid. He made an impact in the Spanish capital by knocking out Nadal and Novak Djokovic on dirt, an unheard-of trick in the same tournament.
Then there is no question of seeing yourself come: “It doesn’t happen to me because I earn what I’ve earned so quickly. I know very well that I have to keep working. When he triumphed in Madrid, he first thought of his roots. He wrote “Long live El Palmar and long live Murcia” on the camera shown to the actors. “I am very family. I love being home with my family and friends. I will never lose this DNA,” he said. AFP