This story, nobody had written it. At least not so fast. If his exponential trajectory left few doubts about his ability to reign in the near future, few were those who had imagined him, a fortnight ago, with the cape of the new master of the tennis planet behind him in the New York final. meeting.
On Sunday, September 11, Carlos Alcaraz showed that the adjective “premature” was foreign to him when he defeated the Norwegian Casper Ruud (6-4, 2-6, 7-6) in the final of the US Open. [7-1], 6-3). The first Grand Slam title of a career that promises to be as insatiable as his carnivorous smile. At 19 years and four months he became, as a prize, the youngest world number 1 in history, unseating Australian Lleyton Hewitt, crowned at 20 years and eight months (in 2001).
The scenario was unprecedented: never before had a Grand Slam final pitted two players in a position to open their Grand Slam record and sit on the world throne in the process. For both the 23-year-old Spaniard and the Norwegian, the weight of history was on their shoulders as they entered the roof-topped Arthur-Ashe court.
After winning the first set, Juan Carlos Ferrero’s protégé suddenly became less precise, his explosiveness left in the locker room. On the other side of the net, Casper Ruud put his plan into action: hold on to his opponent as much as possible, playing with depth and rigor. In the third set, the younger was many times on a wire, revealing his frustration where his opponent was just phlegm. The Norwegian’s game will probably never stir the crowd, even if on Sunday it was often he who called the shots on the more outlandish points.
Alcaraz got his fire back in the third set tie-break, and he wasn’t going to deviate from it. “It was not time to get tired, when you get to the end of a tournament, you have to leave everything you have left on the court”, the winner reacts, again 141me in early 2021, in front of a long-awaited 23,000 viewers.
Not long ago, some didn’t give much of the world of tomorrow, promising an era threatened by boredom, when the three heroes of early 21me the century would retreat. In the shadow of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, tennis would be nothing more than a bland and banal spectacle. The disillusioned lecturers buried a sport that supposedly was no longer in tune with the canons of modernity, blamed above all on the endless matches.
Ironically, this edition of the US Open will have given promise on both counts. The New York fortnight will have shown that we can still pack stadiums to the brim, even late into the night, even after endless five-set matches, without spectators bordering on overdosing. Just as the first roles played by a talented new generation, led by an uninhibited young man, predicted a heady tomorrow. Tennis is fine, thanks for him.
Tennis can especially thank Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard had already delivered, on the night from Wednesday to Thursday, the most beautiful match of the fortnight, together with the Italian Jannik Sinner (13me world), barely older than him (21 years old). Some quarterfinals won by the Spaniard in the last recorded time at the US Open (2:50 hours), after the second longest match in the history of the tournament. By 5:15 am, the two brazens were hitting the ball with maximum intensity, dealing blows, or rather aggressions, as fast as they were ferocious. The duel impressed and bears the seeds of a rivalry that could well settle in the long term.
The face of a teenager, the nerves of an old veteran
Before Marin Cilic already, in the eighth, Alcaraz had discarded five sets. The young man from El Palmar (province of Murcia) still has the face of a teenager, but the nerves of an old veteran and fire in his arms. After completing his three fights in a row at 1:28 p.m., he was “a little tired, of course, but very happy.” “I remember the child that he was ten years ago, that he dreamed of the moment that I am living. You have to chase your dreams. Hard work always pays off.” added the Asturian after his victory in the semifinals against the revelation of the tournament, the American Frances Tiafoe, 24, who defeated Nadal in the round of 16.
The child learns quickly, very quickly. A year ago, another 55me world at the dawn of playing his first US Open, the skinny-armed teenager had to throw in the towel in the quarter-finals after a series of marathon matches. “Last year, I had only played three Grand Slams before the US Open, and only one match in five sets. justified on the eve of the final. Today I am more prepared, physically and mentally. Since this US Open there have been twelve months of intense work, indoors and on the court. But I would say that the key is mainly mental. »
Former world number 1 Justine Henin She said that she was amazed by this dizzying ascent. “In the tournaments that preceded Roland-Garros, he took us to another planet, with his exceptional sequence [demi-finale à Indian Wells, titres à Miami, Barcelone et Madrid], We didn’t know where it was going to stop.” told the Belgian World this week. The Spaniard was finally stopped at Roland-Garros (defeat in the quarterfinals), when everyone imagined him leaving with the Musketeers Cup under his arm. “It’s normal, I still had things to learn. But he wasn’t worried about what was to come.” Hein continued.
Early 2020, “Carlitos” He was still playing in the secondary circuit. He was 16 years old, Nadal posters hanging on the walls of his room and pointing to 490me ATP ranking. Unlike the Mallorcan, who swept the competition from a very young age, Alcaraz took longer to mature his talent. The frail teenager, however, had a much more complete technical palette than his elder at the same age, but with so many options on his racket, he didn’t always know how to pick the right one at the right time.
Since then, he has become that chameleon of the game capable of adapting his tennis to any type of opponent, and has revolutionized the passing of time, often marrying his idol’s opponents. Since the beginning of the season he has already accumulated 50 wins and five titles. In New York, for two weeks, his tennis with panache electrified an audience often more engrossed in his or his neighbor’s hot dog: an explosive game from the front, a big hit from the baseline, drives to the net and amortization as a lethal weapon.
Not long ago, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, the German Alexander Zverev or the Russian Andrey Rublev were announced as the heirs of the holy trinity Federer-Nadal-Djokovic. All have so far failed to win the Grail. Carlos Alcaraz just grilled courtesy of him. Or rather, to use the words of Zverev, swept by the Spanish in Madrid in May, of his “kick ass”.
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