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Carlos Alcaraz wins U.S. Open, youngest men’s No. 1 in history

Carlos Alcaraz

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Carlos Alcaraz of Spain returns a shot against 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 Al Bello/Getty Images)

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Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz won the U.S. Open, becoming at 19 the youngest man to win a major since Rafael Nadal‘s first title at the 2005 French Open and the youngest man to ascend to the No. 1 ranking in ATP history.

Alcaraz, a phenom over the last few years, took out Norwegian Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in Sunday’s unprecedented final. It marked the first time that two men faced off each seeking his first major title and to take over the No. 1 ranking for the first time.

“It’s something I dreamed of since I was a kid, to be No. 1 in the world, to be champion of a Grand Slam,” Alcaraz said in an on-court interview. “It’s tough to talk right now, all these emotions.”

Alcaraz denied Ruud from becoming the first Norwegian man to win a major singles title. Ruud previously lost this year’s French Open final to Nadal.

Alcaraz is the first teen to be No. 1 in the world, supplanting Australian Lleyton Hewitt as the youngest No. 1 since ATP rankings began in 1973.

This final was the youngest by combined age since Hewitt won 2002 Wimbledon over David Nalbandian.

Alcaraz earned it the hard way. He became the third man to win back-to-back-to-back five-set matches in a major title run and broke the record for most time on court for any man in a single major since time records started being kept in 1999.

Was he tired at the end?

“A little bit,” he said. “It’s not time to be tired in the final round of a Grand Slam.”

Alcaraz played for 23 hours, 39 minutes for his seven matches, including five-set wins over Marin Cilic, Jannik Sinner and Frances Tiafoe in the fourth round through the semifinals.

“He’s a hell of a player,” Tiafoe said of Alcaraz after their Friday match. “He’s going to be a problem for a very long time.”

Many have predicted Alcaraz would reach the top for years.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, the last Spanish man other than Nadal to win a major, started coaching Alcaraz at age 15.

“He was like a spaghetti, very thin,” Ferrero said, smiling. “We had to work.”

In February 2020, Alcaraz won his ATP main draw debut match at age 16 (at 3 a.m. in Rio), becoming the youngest man to beat a top-50 player in 17 years.

He has skyrocketed since starting 2021 ranked No. 141 in the world and being the fifth men’s singles alternate for Spain’s Olympic team for Tokyo. This year, he won tournaments in Rio, Miami, Barcelona, Madrid and New York City.

“Since I won Miami,” on April 3, Alcaraz said, “I thought I was able to have a Grand Slam in my hands. But before Miami, I was thinking that I have to still growing up.”

Ferrero said late Sunday that Alcaraz is “on 60% of his game.”

“Right now I’m enjoying the moment,” he said. “I’m enjoying have the trophy in my hands. But, of course, I’m hungry for more. I want to be in the top for many, many weeks. Hope many years.”

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