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Winner-take-all US Open Tennis Showdown goes to Alcaraz, who becomes No. 1 in the world with title

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Casper Ruud of Norway pose with their trophies after Alcaraz won the US Open. (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

It’s Carlos Alcaraz’s world. Everyone else is just living in it.

Okay, it’s not like he is dominating professional tennis–at least not yet–but you can’t argue with the above statement when the world rankings confirm it. In a head-to-head showdown that would decide both the U.S. Open title and the No. 1 ranking, Alcaraz beat Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 on Sunday evening. Alcaraz survived a wild third set and sealed the deal in the four to avoid being put through a fourth consecutive five-setter and get across the finish line after exactly three hours.

“It is something I have dreamt of since I was a kid,” said Alcaraz, who is still all of only 19 years old. “To be No. 1 in the world–to be champion of a Grand Slam–is something I have worked really, really hard (for). It is tough to talk right now; I have lots of emotions. This is something I have tried to achieve (with) all the hard work I have done with my team and my family.”

How’s this for hard work? Alcaraz battled through five-setters in the fourth round (vs. Marin Cilic), the quarterfinals (vs. Jannik Sinner in one of the best U.S. Open matches ever), and the semis (vs. Frances Tiafoe). In total, the No. 3 seed spent a record-breaking 23 hours and 40 minutes on court en route to his first major title.

He probably would have extended his new record even farther had Ruud managed to take the third set. After the Norwegian saved a break point at 0-2 that would have put him behind by a double-break, he broke back for 2-2 and eventually had chances to go up two sets to one with his opponent serving at 5-6. As he did throughout the fortnight, though, Alcaraz came up big in the pressure moments. The Spaniard saved two set points before holding and then dominated the ensuing tiebreaker seven points to one.

With momentum in hand, one break–which came at 3-2–was all Alcaraz would need in the fourth. He consolidated with a hold from 0-30 down at 4-2 and held easily at 5-3 to clinch victory.

It reduced him to a joyful heap of sweat and tears on the court, similar to but of course even more intense than his reactions to outlasting Sinner and Tiafoe. At long last, he could exhale.

“There is no time to be tired in the final rounds of a Grand Slam,” Alcaraz commented. “You have to be ready and give everything you have inside.”

Ruud did the same throughout the fortnight, making a run to his second Grand Slam final after being runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the French Open this spring. The 23-year-old came within two sets of a slam title and the top ranking but will instead settle for No. 2.

“It was an exciting match to play and be a part of,” Ruud assured. “It [had] many fun rallies and fun shots. Of course (it is) disappointing in the end that it didn’t go my way. But that’s how it goes. Carlos stepped up when he really needed to, especially in the third set; it was close to going in my favor. I had some set points and couldn’t take care of them. He just played too good on those points. We’ve seen it many times before, he steps up when he needs to. When it’s close, he pulls out great shots. All credit to him.

“At the same time I’m proud of the match and the two weeks. I gave it all; I left it all out on the court. (I) played some phenomenal tennis throughout the two weeks, probably my best tennis ever on this surface. So I’m very happy in the end.

“I’m very proud of being No. 2. In a way it’s a good thing because I can still chase the last spot. There’s only one more spot to conquer.”

With Alcaraz there, it certainly won’t be easy.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.