Alcaraz, Ruud Carry Weight Of World Into US Open Final
Both players stand one victory from their maiden Grand Slam crown, a feat that would simultaneously propel them to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday. The match is already a history-maker. It is the first Grand Slam men’s final featuring two players competing for both their first major title and the World No. 1 ranking, a winner-takes-all showdown set to bring the Grand Slam action for 2022 to a thrilling close.
“We're playing for the tournament and also World No. 1,” said Ruud after his semi-final win against Karen Khachanov on Friday. “Of course, there will be nerves and we will both feel it.”
Depending on the result, another milestone will fall on Sunday night in New York. Ruud is aiming to become the first Norwegian man to win a Grand Slam title, while Alcaraz seeks to become the youngest No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings at the age of 19 years and four months. Read More On The Battle For No. 1.
Youngest World No. 1s in Pepperstone ATP Rankings History
|Player||Age Reached No. 1
||20 years, 9 months
||20 years, 10 months
||21 years, 1 month
||21 years, 2 months
||21 years, 3 months
After not dropping a set in the first three matches of his US Open campaign, Alcaraz has taken a somewhat different path to victory from the fourth round onwards at Flushing Meadows.
The #NextGenATP Spaniard needed five sets to defeat Marin Cilic, Jannik Sinner and Frances Tiafoe in a trio of back-to-back thrillers, a clear demonstration of the physical strides made by the 19-year-old in recent months. A year ago in New York, he was forced to retire from his quarter-final against Felix Auger-Aliassime having come through tough five-setters in his two previous matches. As he prepares to take on Ruud on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday, Alcaraz is not worried about his recent workload taking its toll.
“I would say now I'm more prepared [than last year],” said Alcaraz, who has spent 20 hours, 19 minutes on court in the tournament so far. “Last year I just played three Grand Slams before the US Open, and I had just played, I'm going to say, one match of five sets. Now I've played more matches of five sets, I am more prepared mentally and physically.”
US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 10, 2022
Should his meeting with Ruud also go the distance, Alcaraz can look back on an impressive 8-1 career record in fifth sets, something he attributes to his ability to raise his level when the pressure is ramped up.
“I lost one in Australia this year against Berrettini, but it could have been a victory for me too,” said Alcaraz. “The key moment is when I give my best. That's why I've won eight of the nine fifth sets I've played in my career. Today it has been shown that I am physically prepared to be able to play good tennis despite all the hours on the court. I'm not afraid of the final after qualifying like this. I will go for it."
The Spaniard will also look to his previous two meetings with Ruud for confidence. Alcaraz defeated the Norwegian on clay in Marbella in 2021, before securing another straight-sets victory in the final in Miami in March to lift his first ATP Masters 1000 crown.
“I feel capable of beating him again,” said Alcaraz. “He has already played a Grand Slam final, and for me everything will be new. But everything new in my career I have faced in a good way. I hope to do the same on Sunday. I'm going to try to show my best version".
Ruud’s run to his maiden major final at Roland Garros in July may have been abruptly ended by 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal on the Parisian clay, but the Norwegian is viewing Sunday’s clash against Alcaraz with completely fresh eyes and believes the experience will even help when he steps onto Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday.
“I mean, Roland Garros, the final, [Nadal] obviously gave me a good beating,” said Ruud. “After the final I said, If I ever reach one again, I hope it is not Rafa on the other side of the court in Roland Garros, because it's sort of an impossible task I think for any player. I'm happy that it's not Rafa on clay.
“I hope it can have prepared me a little bit. At least I know a little bit what I'm facing when I'm stepping on the court, seeing the trophy on the back of the court, seeing tons of celebrities. Even in Roland Garros, there were royal families there watching. That was a little bit new experience for me. I hope I can be more ready for that on Sunday.”
Ruud has certainly been ready for whatever circumstances he has faced so far this fortnight in New York. The fifth seed kept cool to down home favourite Tommy Paul in five sets in the third round, while his quarter-final triumph against 13th seed Matteo Berrettini was in stark contrast to that battle. Ruud produced one of his most dominant displays of the year to ease past the big-hitting Italian in straight sets.
US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 9, 2022
The Norwegian believes he will have to play just as aggressively on Sunday if he wants to notch his first win against Alcaraz at the third attempt.
“I think if I want to beat Carlos, I'll need to play very precise with all the shots that I hit,” said Ruud. “Especially try to keep him a little bit further back in the court, to play with good depth and length on all my shots.
“If he steps in, he can do anything with the ball. He can rip a winner. He also has great touch with the dropshot. I think he has one of the best dropshots on tour. He can do both shots back and forth, it will sort of get you off guard sometimes with the dropshot.
“If you play with good depth and good length, it's tougher to hit dropshots. That will be something that I will try to focus on.”