Chris Almeida: All credit to you. You were right, Carlos Alcaraz is our U.S. Open men’s singles champion for 2022. He made, by his standards, quick work of Casper Ruud in the final: 6–4, 2–6, 7–6 (1), 6–3. And, boy, you can’t say he didn’t earn it. He did everything you could possibly ask him to do over the course of the tournament: win long matches, short matches, late matches, early matches. Beat young players, old players. Everything. This guy is going to be good for a long time.
Jon Wertheim: He spent more time on the court than any player in U.S. Open history. He won three five-setters that all ended in the a.m., and then he comes back for the biggest match of his career and he outlasts a player known for his durability? We’re running out of superlatives here and he’s 19 years old.
CA: You saw that little dip in the second set. We’ve all been watching closely the past couple of rounds and thinking: Is he getting tired? Is he finally getting tired? Nope! He was not tired at all, evidently. Rather, Ruud started to look a little slower. He started to get a little tight. But Alcaraz? Nothing could stop that guy. Not the pressure, and certainly not fatigue.
JW: I’m in a group text with a bunch of former players. And they were sort of like: the kid’s legs look tired. All that tennis is finally getting to him. Ruud is going to have to send fruit baskets to the previous three opponents. Yes, there was a real dip in the second set. But whether it’s because he’s 19 or because he just has the fortitude that the great ones have or because his box, whom he communicated with a great deal, helped him, it’s amazing how he recovered. That second set for Alcaraz was just a loose set of tennis. And even early in the third, he got a break and he gave it back and you sort of thought: O.K., it’s a fun ride and next time this guy will know not to play three straight five-set matches. But that tiebreaker was the first tiebreaker of the five he’s played in this tournament that he won. And that really seemed to deflate his opponent. Then Alcaraz just turned on the motor and got out of there.
CA: Yeah. And looking forward: if you analyze his game, it’s already pretty robust at age 19. You can nitpick some things here and there. He doesn’t put in as many first serves as you might want him to. The serve generally isn’t as much of a weapon as you might like. But then you think about the fact that he’s 19. You look at Rafa Nadal’s game at 19 and you’ll note that his serve back then was an abomination. He didn’t really tighten that up and having success year-round until he was 21, in 2007. And Alcaraz is already better than that. You have to think: where is this guy gonna be in five years? Already, the movement, the ball striking, the incredible touch. I haven’t seen someone go to the drop shot so much in recent years. His willingness to try that shot, even after it hasn’t worked a couple times in a game or in a tight moment … He really just has nerves of steel. We saw him in the Tiafoe match blow a couple of leads—get a break and then drop his serve. A number of times during the tournament he would be out front, but let his opponent get some momentum. But then! He just steels himself for a little bit and he’s back. You can’t deflate the guy. It was stunning to watch.
JW: It’s really, really hard to find something not to like. It’s hard to find something he doesn’t do well. I was just with the Spanish player Feliciano Lopez a few minutes ago, and I said: how many more slams has he got in him? Lopez just started laughing. Nineteen years old, the youngest No. 1. We all said that with Alcaraz it wasn’t a question of “if,” it was a question of “when.” But I don’t know too many people that thought “when” was gonna come this soon. That was very impressive.
Now, sort of weirdly, he’s kind of the man to beat. Roger Federer may never play again. He’s north of 40. Nadal is 36 and, by his own admission, no longer a kid. Djokovic is 35 and has missed half the year’s majors. I mean, it’s a really quick rise, but right now the No. 1 ranking does not lie. Alcaraz is atop the tour right now.
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