Spanish tennis youngster Carlos Alcaraz will battle Norwegian Casper Ruud for the title and the world number one ranking in the final of the US Open in New York. Alcaraz, 19, won his thrilling semi-final match against US crowd favourite Frances Tiafoe 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3. Earlier, Ruud, 23, had punched his ticket to the final by beating Karen Khachanov of Russia 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.
The winner of Sunday’s final (22.00 CEST/Eurosport) will not only claim his first Grand Slam title but also replace dethroned defending champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia as world number one.
Youngest finalist since 1990
Alcaraz is the youngest US Open finalist since 1990, when US’s Pete Sampras lifted the trophy at the age of 19 years and 28 days. The Spaniard was not affected by the 5:15-hour marathon two days earlier in the quarter-finals against Italy’s Jannik Sinner – on the contrary: after narrowly losing the first set, Alcaraz really turned up the heat and deservedly entered his first Grand Slam final.
“We are in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam, we have to give everything, no matter if it takes four or five hours,” Alcaraz explained his enormous reserves of energy. Tiafoe was fighting tears. “I feel like I let everyone down,” the 24-year-old said into the stadium microphone, “I’m going to come back and win this thing. I’m sorry guys!”
Tiafoe, who was also cheered on by former first lady Michelle Obama at Arthur Ashe Stadium, experienced an inexplicable drop in performance in between. The Americans still have to wait for their first men’s Grand Slam title since 2003 (Andy Roddick). Tiafoe was at least able to console himself with a US Open record: he was the first professional in history to finish the tournament with a flawless tie-break record of 8:0.
Ruud first Norwegian to reach final
“I’m so happy,” Ruud meanwhile said after reaching his second final at a Grand Slam tournament. “We were both a bit nervous in the beginning, luckily I won the first set.” And how: On set point, the son of former Australian Open eighth-finalist Christian Ruud showed nerves of steel and class in the 55-stroke rally. “In the second and fourth,” he said, “I played phenomenally.”
Already on Saturday Poland’s world number one Iga Swiatek and Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur of Tunisia will play for the title in the women’s final. “It will be a great match,” predicted Swiatek.