Tennis | Carlos Alcaraz becomes youngest world number one in history
Carlos Alcaraz has become the youngest world number one in ATP history after beating Casper Ruud in four sets in the US Open final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Alcaraz, 19, defeated Ruud 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 in rainy New York to win his first Grand Slam, becoming the youngest Grand Slam winner since his compatriot Rafael Nadal in 2005, and the youngest US Open champion since Pete Sampras in 1990.
The Spaniard, who has long been touted as an heir apparent to the 'Big Three', also became the youngest ever winner at both the Miami and Madrid Opens earlier this year, beating both Novak Djokovic and Nadal at the latter.
Ruud, who also lost the Madrid Open final to Alcaraz, was also aiming to taste Grand Slam success for the first time.
Serving first under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium - with the roof closed due to the rain - the 23-year-old Norwegian survived an early scare to hold his serve after a six-minute back and forth.
Alcaraz then survived two break points to hold his own serve, before nailing a crucial break point in the following game to go 2-1 up. The teenager held on to take the first set 6-4, but Ruud hit back, winning four games in a row to ensure a comfortable 6-2 win in the second set.
Alcaraz endured some five-set battles on his way to his maiden US Open final, and the 19-year-old looked fatigued throughout the second.
It was during this set, in fact, that he set another record. Having been on court for been on court for 21 hours & 52 minutes, Alcaraz broke the record for the most time played at a single US Open on record, eclipsing Andy Murray's existing record (2005).
However, Alcaraz recovered immediately at the start of the third, breaking Ruud in the set's first game.
Ruud bravely broke back to make it 2-2, with both men then battling to hold their serves in the following games, with the Norwegian coming out on top to go 5-4 up after a memorable 17-shot rally which left Alcaraz lying on the court.
The game eventually went to a tie-break, which an unplayable Alcaraz won in emphatic and explosive fashion, racing to a 7-1 victory to take third set in 73 minutes.
It was a huge moment for Alcaraz, who had lost all four of his previous tie-breaks in this year's US Open (two of them to Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals and two tie-breaks to Frances Tiafoe in the semi-finals).
‘Charly’ then held his nerve to triumph in a 21-shot rally to hold serve in the first game of the fourth set. Alcaraz then hastened his victory by breaking Ruud's serve to go 4-2 up in the fourth, much to the delight of the crowd.
His coach (and former world number one) Juan Carlos Ferrero urged his teammates to stay calm as they watched on, but Alcaraz was in no danger of losing his composure. Ruud held his serve to make it 5-3, before Alcaraz earned two championship points in the next game.
The Spaniard held his serve to seal an historic victory in New York, proving that the considerable hype around him is justified. After collapsing on his back in exhausted ecstasy, Alcaraz embraced his opponent at the net.
"This is something I dreamed of since I was a young kid. To be number one in the world, to be the champion of a Grand Slam," Alcaraz said.
"All the hard work I did with my team, my family. I'm just 19 years old so a lot of the decisions are with my team, my parents. It's something that is very special for me."
Ruud, who showed excellent sportsmanship in the first set by giving Alcaraz a point after the umpire failed to spot a double bounce, was gracious in defeat.
The Norwegian is still chasing his first Grand Slam, but has risen to world number two after finishing as runner-up at Flushing Meadows.
"It's tough to explain everything but things have been going so well," he said.
"Today was a special day. Both Carlos and I knew what was at stake.
"It's fun that both finalists will be number two and number one. I'm disappointed of course that I'm not number one but number two is not too bad either and I will continue to chase for my first Grand Slam title."
Alcaraz' victory makes him the third different US Open in the last three years, with Daniel Medvedev - who Alcaraz has replaced as world number one - being crowned champion in 2021 and Dominic Thiem emerging triumphant in 2020.
Alcaraz is also the 10th different US Open men's champion in last 15 tournaments.
It has been a meteoric rise for a player who started 2022 ranked 32nd in the world.