Carlos Alcaraz has already recovered from three successive five-set matches, two of which finished past 2am; he needed three hours and 20 minutes to defeat Casper Ruud and seal his maiden Grand Slam at the US Open; the 19-year-old also becomes the youngest man to be ranked No 1.
The Spanish teenager and his opponent Casper Ruud went into the match with both bidding for a first Grand Slam title and to top the rankings, and it was the 19-year-old who came out on top, winning 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Alcaraz is more than a year younger than Lleyton Hewitt was when he topped the standings in 2001.
“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,” said Alcaraz.
“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.”
Alcaraz admitted with a smile that he was “a little bit” tired, but said: “I always said it’s not time to be tired in the final round of a Grand Slam. You have to give everything on court, everything you have inside.”
Alcaraz, who burst into the spotlight by reaching the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows a year ago, showed he was ready to win the biggest titles by lifting Masters trophies in Miami and Madrid, where he beat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic back to back, and has proved himself to be a complete player despite his tender years.
The match was played under the roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium on a rainy day in New York and Alcaraz moved into an early lead with a break in the third game.
Ruud sportingly gave his opponent a point after the umpire missed a double bounce, but Alcaraz did not really need the help as he went on to take the first set.
He then forced a break point at 2-2 in the second set but Ruud saved it and from there the momentum turned.
There were several of the all-court rallies that Alcaraz has made a habit of this tournament, and on one of them in the next game, Ruud made the breakthrough.
He then made it four games in a row as Alcaraz’s energy dipped. The teenager broke early in the third but then handed it back with a tired-looking backhand into the net and for much of the rest of the set Alcaraz was hanging on.
Ruud brought up two set points at 5-6 but Alcaraz bravely saved both with forays to the net, and he found the perfect time to win his first tie-break of the tournament, albeit with a lot of help from his opponent.
Alcaraz was now right on his toes again and the pressure eventually paid off when he broke through to lead 4-2 in the fourth set before serving out his historic triumph.
The Spaniard becomes the youngest Grand Slam champion since Nadal won his first French Open title 17 years ago, and the youngest at the US Open since Pete Sampras in 1990, while this was the second youngest men’s final of the open era.
Ruud said: “It’s tough to explain everything but things have been going so well. 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.”