Carlos Alcaraz, explosive and electric, and all of 19, will go up against the solidity of the second-generation tennis pro – Casper Ruud in a winner-takes-all US Open final.
Ruud’s first memory of watching television was Rafael Nadal winning the 2005 French Open. It made the seven-year-old want to be on TV too. The 23-year-old Norwegian’s father – Christian, a former pro, whose highest ranking was No. 39 – recalled that one of his son’s earliest goals was to be No. 1.
Ruud, who is yet to win a set against Alcaraz in two meetings, having lost their most recent encounter in Miami in March, will play his second Grand Slam final on Sunday. He has an opportunity to check off both his childhood dreams.
Ruud, whose four-set semifinal win over Russian Karen Khachanov was completed earlier in the evening, thought playing Alcaraz in the title match would be fair for everyone.
“If I want to beat Carlos, I’ll need to play very precise with all the shots that I hit, especially try to keep him a little bit further back in the court, play with good length on all my shots,” Ruud said. “If he steps in, he can do anything with the ball.”
At the end of a year in which he struggled at the Slams, making one fourth round at the 2021 Australian Open, Ruud was hoping for one quarterfinal finish in the new year. He has returned two finals. After making the Roland Garros final in June, the Norwegian wondered if that outing would be his only Grand Slam final. “But here I am again,” the 23-year-old said.
“I hope the last final would have prepared me a little bit,” Ruud said. “I know a little bit what I’m facing, all that I will see, when I step on the court, seeing the trophy at the back of the court, seeing tons of celebrities. In Roland Garros there were royal families watching. That was a new experience for me. I hope I can be more ready.”
Ruud couldn’t play the Australian Open in January because of an ankle injury. “From next year, leading into the Grand Slams, I’ll probably have a different mindset than what I had this year,” he said. “I know I can reach the further stages, that itself gives you self-belief.”
Ruud, whose nine career titles have all come at ATP 250 events, the base level of tournaments on the Tour, underlined the importance of every ranking point.
“I’ll hopefully take every match that I play serious and know that every match is important,” he said. “The three 250s I won this year gave me 750 points in the race. If I would have played those tournaments thinking, it’s not that important because there’s a Grand Slam coming, I wouldn’t be in this position.”