US OPEN – Final – The cheat sheet: Carlos Alcaraz, so young and already so high

US OPEN - Final - The cheat sheet: Carlos Alcaraz, so young and already so high

Why and how

It was his less epic match of this second week, but Carlos Alcaraz had set the bar much too high for anyone to blame him. It was probably also the least successful. As much as we had never felt him physically stuck against Frances Tiafoe in the semi-finals when he was coming out of his marathon of more than five hours against Jannik Sinner completed at 3 a.m., as much “Carlitos” suffered on this level against to Casper Ruud. As the legitimate stress of his first Grand Slam final was added, he struggled to express himself fully.

Paradoxically, if this will not therefore remain as his greatest match, very far from it, these difficulties reinforce the merit of the young Spaniard. He had to fight against Casper Ruud but also against himself. Rarely have we felt so frustrated as during the second and third rounds of this final. A very rare body language at home, when he made a pact with his trainer Juan Carlos Ferrero: always stay positive, no matter what. He felt that he was missing something and no doubt he was afraid to see a title that almost stretched his arms slip through his fingers. But he got away with it.

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It is in this that Carlos Alcaraz is truly a rare specimen. What is most striking at his age is his constantly renewed ability to find a solution. His salvation, Sunday evening, went through the front. Especially in this decisive third set. It was on the fly that he saved these two set points against him at 6-5. A marvelous forehand volley not easy to hit, then a high volley following a serve-volley. It had to be done, this sentence being understood both in the sense of “Hat”, that of “It was a necessity”. Yes, Alcaraz knows how to do what is necessary at the right time.

This year, the US Open not only consecrated a player who is already ultra-complete, but also and above all an authentic champion, endowed with a strength of character and a form of courage that only belong to the best. This small (this big, rather) something that makes all the difference and which undoubtedly made the difference Sunday evening on the Arthur-Ashe court between Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud. The Norwegian is a superb player, his palette is fuller and finer than people say, but he may not be made of this particular wood. Alcaraz, yes.

The 5 most beautiful points of the final: Alcaraz and Ruud, associated artists

The key moment

Undoubtedly the end of the third set. At this point in the match, Casper Ruud seemed above his opponent. Lacking breath and energy, Carlos Alcaraz found himself on a wire when, at 6-5 in favor of the Norwegian, he had to save two set points on his serve. By holding on and embarking Ruud in a tie-break that the Murcian would finally fly over, he had done the hardest part. Ruud was also not going to get the slightest break point. A real turning point.

The point of the final

At a very important moment in the game since it was the outcome of this famous 12th game of the 3rd set, where Carlos Alcaraz had to dismiss two set points. On this point, where the two players found themselves in turn at the net, the Spaniard picked up at 6-6.

Damping, tweener and smash: the point that totally revived Alcaraz in the 3rd set

The stat: 8

That is the number of aces of Carlos Alcaraz in the fourth round. Two more than the accumulation of the first three sets. By way of comparison, during his three victories in five sets against Marin Cilic in the eighth, Jannik Sinner in the quarter and Frances Tiafoe in the half, the new world number one had respectively signed 3, 5 and 6 aces on … the whole Match. Such quality of service in a fourth set of a Grand Slam final is a godsend. Result, Casper Ruud never had the shadow of an opening in the home stretch of this final.

A winning last serve and immeasurable joy: Alcaraz’s historic match point

The declaration: Carlos Alcaraz

It’s something I dreamed of since I was a child, I worked very, very hard to achieve it, it’s hard to find the words, I feel a lot of emotions. I thought of my mom and my grandfather. To many other members of my family who could not come.

Alcaraz, shock after emotion: “I’ve always dreamed of it but everything is jostling in my head”

The question: Is Alcaraz ready to become the boss?

So here he is now in the Top 10 (7th) of the youngest players to have won a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era. Here he is also world number one and in this area, no one has ever done better than him in terms of precocity. However, is Carlos Alcaraz already indisputably the best player in the world? While Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won the first three Grand Slam tournaments of the year, the question remains.

If we can feed a very small regret (for us, not for him) at the end of this capital campaign of 2022, it is the missed appointments between “Charlie de Murcie” and the two giants. He could have found Nadal in the semi-finals at Roland-Garros (defeat in the quarters against Zverev), then Djokovic at Wimbledon (there too, he stalled on the step just below, against Jannik Sinner) even if, on grass he may not yet be ready for such contests. In New York, it was Nadal who missed it by losing to Frances Tiafoe.

4 sets for a monumental feat: how Tiafoe tamed Nadal

It is not, in writing this, to seek to diminish his title to Flushing or to minimize anything. But how not to want to see the new phenomenon of world tennis at work against Nadal and Djokovic on the biggest stages of the world. These duels took place, in Masters 1000. But the Grand Slam is different. In Madrid, in the spring, Alcaraz had made an impression by beating the Spaniard and the Serb in quick succession after two titanic matches. In a Major, what would have been the scenario? Everyone can say what they want, by definition, but our feeling, without predicting the result, is that the young Carlos would have been ready to fight.

So yes, do we wish for 2023 confrontations between the new world number one and Nadal or Djokovic, and why not, Nadal and Djokovic. For him, that would be the ultimate test. A way to assert himself even more, to become the indisputable boss of the circuit for good. Today, the situation after the four Majors of the year is somewhat reminiscent of the world heavyweight title which has not yet been unified. Next year if all goes well?

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