US Open 2022: Young Carlos Alcaraz claims first Grand Slam title with four-set defeat of Casper Ruud

·5 min read

Carlos Alcaraz has made history. The 19-year-old phenom won the US Open, defeating Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3, and will become the youngest player ever to rise to No. 1 in the ATP rankings.

Alcaraz looked less sharp than he had in the past few matches, but that's likely because he played three consecutive five-setters to get to the final match. Despite that, whenever he plays, it's like he's used video game cheat codes on himself, and Sunday was no exception.

But Ruud matched him shot for shot, and found ways to beat him soundly. That made for extremely entertaining tennis, perhaps some of the best of 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 had everything working. He had the right touch and the right plan to put Ruud in a hole early in the match.

Alcaraz claimed the first set, but Ruud turned everything around in the second set. He began adjusting and finding ways to beat Alcaraz. He froze Alcaraz at two games as he began to string games together on his way to a second-set victory.

At times in the second set, Alcaraz looked like he might be running on fumes. He'd expended far more energy over the past week than Ruud. But not so. Alcaraz wiped the slate clean in the third set. Every time it looked like he might be out, he regrouped and attacked. Ruud went ahead 4-3, and then Alcaraz tied it. Ruud went ahead 5-4, and Alcaraz tied it again. He then staved off two set points from Ruud to tie it 6-6, and then he annihilated him in the tiebreak.

Just one set away from victory, Alcaraz somehow turned on the jets, getting energy from who knows where. He played every single second of every shot and every point. He remained positive and clear, and his ability to shake off the misses and errors was incredible. No matter what happened, he continued to execute his game plan. Even when he got blanked by Ruud to narrow the gap to 5-3, he kept moving forward. One game later, he claimed the title with an incredible serve.

After the final point was scored and his initial celebration over, Alcaraz started climbing up the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium, looking for his team. When he found them, they swallowed him in a huge hug, and he went on to share a moment with every single person in his box.

Alcaraz ushering in a new era of stars

And it doesn’t end there for Alcaraz. He’s the youngest man to reach a Grand Slam final since Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest to reach the US Open men’s singles final since Pete Sampras in 1990. Coincidentally, Nadal and Sampras won Grand Slam titles at age 19.

Alcaraz, who won four titles this year (and became the only player to beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at a clay court event) is part of a new generation of stars emerging as the Big Three's time comes to a close. That’s what this US Open, and this final, was all about. Alcaraz cemented his status as the most creative, exciting player on the men’s tour. Ruud emerged as a major threat having made two Grand Slam finals this year. Frances Tiafoe showed he has what it takes to compete with the game’s top players. Jannik Sinner is creative and precise, which was on full display during his epic, record-setting match against Alcaraz in the quarterfinals.

For Alcaraz, it all came together at the US Open. The disappointing losses from the French Open, where he was beaten by Zverev in the quarterfinals, and Wimbledon, where Sinner beat him in the fourth round, were just memories, a learning experience that helped him get to where he is. As a clay specialist, he was expected to run the table at Roland Garros, but his early exit seeded doubt. His loss there felt like the story of Alcaraz’s year had taken a wrong turn, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

But no matter what anyone thinks or expects of Alcaraz, he's the only one in charge of his story. He creates his own narrative. And in the story Alcaraz wrote, he didn’t win his first major late. He won it right on time. And it feels like there are a lot more to come.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates after defeating Casper Ruud of Norway during their Men’s Singles Final match on Day Fourteen of the 2022 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 11, 2022 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates after defeating Casper Ruud of Norway during their Men’s Singles Final match on Day Fourteen of the 2022 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 11, 2022 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)