At a U.S. Open that has at times looked like a guard-changing, Carlos Alcaraz faces Casper Ruud in a men’s final with unprecedented stakes: each eyeing his first major title and to seize the No. 1 ranking for the first time.
Alcaraz, at 19, can become the first teenage man to win a major since Rafael Nadal‘s first of a men’s record 22 titles at the 2005 French Open. He can also become the first teenage No. 1 in the world since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973.
He dropped Frances Tiafoe in Friday’s semifinals 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3, denying the first American men’s major finalist since 2009.
“I gave it everything I had, too good for Carlos tonight,” Tiafoe told a crowd that included Michelle Obama. “I gave everything I had the last two weeks. I came here wanting to win the U.S. Open. I feel like I let you guys down. This one hurts.
“I’m going to come back and I will win this thing one day.”
Alcaraz had already survived back-to-back five-setters that ended between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. to become the youngest men’s major semifinalist since Nadal at the 2005 French. He was also the youngest U.S. Open men’s semifinalist since Pete Sampras won the first of his 14 majors in 1990.
“In a semifinal of a Grand Slam, we have to give everything we have inside,” Alcaraz said. “I can see the No. 1 in the world, but at the same time it’s so far away.”
U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men
Ruud, the 23-year-old French Open runner-up, can make the single biggest jump to No. 1 in the world — from seventh in the rankings going into the U.S. Open. He dispatched Russian Karen Khachanov 7-6 (5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 — including a 55-shot rally to win the first set — in the early semifinal.
No Norwegian man or woman has been No. 1 in the ATP or WTA rankings since they were introduced in 1973 and 1975, respectively. Unlike Alcaraz, Ruud has major final experience — getting crushed by Nadal in the French Open final in June, winning just six games.
“After Roland Garros, I was of course extremely happy but at the same time humble enough to think that could be my only final in a Grand Slam in my career,” said Ruud, whose goal coming into the year was to make one Grand Slam quarterfinal. “In Roland Garros, there was royal families there watching. That was a little bit new experience for me. I hope I can be more ready for that on Sunday.”
Norway has been on a tear in international sport over the last two years.
At the Tokyo Olympics, it won gold medals in the men’s 400m hurdles (Karsten Warholm‘s world record) and 1500m (Jakob Ingebrigtsen), men’s beach volleyball (Anders Mol and Christian Sorum) and men’s triathlon (Kristian Blummenfelt, who this year won the World Ironman Championship).
It then won a record 16 Winter Olympic gold medals at the Beijing Games.
Erling Haaland made FIFA’s best 11 male soccer players for 2021, the first Norwegian to do so. Viktor Hovland ascended to No. 3 in the world men’s golf rankings, highest-ever for a Norwegian.
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