Carlos Alcaraz wins U.S. Open, youngest men’s No. 1 in history

Carlos Alcaraz
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Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz won the U.S. Open, becoming at 19 the youngest man to win a major since Rafael Nadal‘s first title at the 2005 French Open and the youngest man to ascend to the No. 1 ranking in ATP history.

Alcaraz, a phenom over the last few years, took out Norwegian Casper Ruud 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in Sunday’s unprecedented final. It marked the first time that two men faced off each seeking his first major title and to take over the No. 1 ranking for the first time.

“It’s something I dreamed of since I was a kid, to be No. 1 in the world, to be champion of a Grand Slam,” Alcaraz said in an on-court interview. “It’s tough to talk right now, all these emotions.”

Alcaraz denied Ruud from becoming the first Norwegian man to win a major singles title. Ruud previously lost this year’s French Open final to Nadal.

Alcaraz is the first teen to be No. 1 in the world, supplanting Australian Lleyton Hewitt as the youngest No. 1 since ATP rankings began in 1973.

This final was the youngest by combined age since Hewitt won 2002 Wimbledon over David Nalbandian.

Alcaraz earned it the hard way. He became the third man to win back-to-back-to-back five-set matches in a major title run and broke the record for most time on court for any man in a single major since time records started being kept in 1999.

Was he tired at the end?

“A little bit,” he said. “It’s not time to be tired in the final round of a Grand Slam.”

Alcaraz played for 23 hours, 39 minutes for his seven matches, including five-set wins over Marin CilicJannik Sinner and Frances Tiafoe in the fourth round through the semifinals.

“He’s a hell of a player,” Tiafoe said of Alcaraz after their Friday match. “He’s going to be a problem for a very long time.”

Many have predicted Alcaraz would reach the top for years.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, the last Spanish man other than Nadal to win a major, started coaching Alcaraz at age 15.

“He was like a spaghetti, very thin,” Ferrero said, smiling. “We had to work.”

In February 2020, Alcaraz won his ATP main draw debut match at age 16 (at 3 a.m. in Rio), becoming the youngest man to beat a top-50 player in 17 years.

He has skyrocketed since starting 2021 ranked No. 141 in the world and being the fifth men’s singles alternate for Spain’s Olympic team for Tokyo. This year, he won tournaments in Rio, Miami, Barcelona, Madrid and New York City.

“Since I won Miami,” on April 3, Alcaraz said, “I thought I was able to have a Grand Slam in my hands. But before Miami, I was thinking that I have to still growing up.”

Ferrero said late Sunday that Alcaraz is “on 60% of his game.”

“Right now I’m enjoying the moment,” he said. “I’m enjoying have the trophy in my hands. But, of course, I’m hungry for more. I want to be in the top for many, many weeks. Hope many years.”

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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