How they got here …
Ruud cruised past Britain’s Kyle Edmund, beat Tim van Rijthoven in four sets, then needed four hours and 23 minutes to beat the USA’s Tommy Paul – and that was with a 6-0 fifth set. His fourth-round win over France’s Corentin Moutet was a bit quicker – 6-1, 6-2, 6-7, 6-2. Ruud followed that with a straight-set win over Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the quarter-finals and solid three-hour win over Karen Khachanov, spoiling the run of the man who spoiled Nick Kyrgios’ run in the quarter-finals.
Alcaraz scaled El Capitan, solved Fermat’s Last Theorem, brokered lasting peace in the Middle East and defeated home-national favorite Frances Tiafoe.
At least, it seems as if his feats in the early rounds have been this arduous. He opened with straight-set wins over a pair of Argentinians – Sebastian Baez and Federico Coria – and beat 21-year-old American Jenson Brooksby.
Then it got interesting:
3 hours and 54 minutes to beat Croatia’s Marin Cilic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
5 hours and 15 minutes to beat Italy’s Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-7, 6-7, 7-5, 6-3.
4 hours and 19 minutes to beat the USA’s Frances Tiafoe 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-7, 6-3.
He’s still just 19, which means he has spent roughly half his life on the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Who’s No. 1?
We’ll know in about two hours. Or three. Or five. Probably by midnight, anyway.
If you don’t know the names Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz — well, first of all, you’ve missed a great tournament. But moving forward, you certainly WILL know these names, and you should start by knowing that the winner today will take not only US Open title but the top ranking in the world.
Alcaraz looks like the face of the future. He’s only 19, but he already has a dizzying array of shots and a bottomless gas tank.
(Wait — isn’t a bottomless gas tank a bad thing? Wouldn’t that be a big spill? And why use fossil fuels at all? Maybe a self-recharging battery?)
Ruud, though, is far more than a speed bump on the way to Alcaraz’s ascension. He has nine career titles, though eight are on clay. This matchup will surely recur many times over the years, especially at Roland Garros.
So get comfortable, order some pizza (New York-style, of course, in honor of the occasion — but also because Chicago-style pizza is actually a casserole) and follow along as this breathtaking tournament draws to a conclusion.
Beau will be here shortly. In the meantime, here’s Tumaini Carayol on what is likely to be an absorbing contest:
Over the course of an intense, chaotic and wildly entertaining US Open semi-final between Carlos Alcaraz and Frances Tiafoe, as their combined creativity, athleticism and joy merged to create entertainment in its purest form, Alcaraz absorbed so many blows. He conceded a difficult first set tiebreak with a double fault, then after establishing his dominance, he couldn’t hold on. Alcaraz continually lost his serve, failed to take a match point and found himself in a fifth set.
There were so many moments when the momentum could have dangerously shifted, but no matter how the match twisted, he maintained his intensity until the end. Across the three consecutive five-set battles that have led him to the final, this resilience has been his defining characteristic. It will make him so hard to put away as he faces Casper Ruud for the men’s US Open title on Sunday.
Together, they have engineered a fascinating scenario that marks a stark contrast to the years of dominance by the big three. Not only will Ruud and Alcaraz compete for their first grand slam title in the final, but the world No 1 ranking is also on the line. It is rare enough for players to reach the world summit for the first time after winning a slam. The most recent occurrence in the men’s game coming when Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon in 2011, his third major.
The obstacles for Ruud are clearly numerous. Despite reaching his second grand slam final of the season, Ruud has never beaten a top-10 opponent at a grand slam tournament – what a time it would be to finally do so. They faced each other in a big final earlier this year at the Miami Open, a first Masters 1000 final for both, and although Alcaraz still had not yet broken the top 15, he won in two tight sets.
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