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Carlos the master – Alcaraz defeats Ruud to become youngest champion in Miami history

Carlos Alcaraz’s meteoric rise continued in Miami as the 18-year-old toppled Casper Ruud to become the youngest man to win a Masters 1000 title since 2005.

Carlos Alcaraz 2022 Miami Open champion Apr 3, 2022; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) celebrates with the Butch Buchholz Championship Trophy after his match against Casper Ruud (NOR)(not pictured) in the men’s singles final in the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium. || 226806_0019 NPStrans toppic

Still more than a month shy of his 19th birthday, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz is proving that he is not only mature beyond his years – he’s ready to win at the highest level, now. Alcaraz did just that on Sunday in Miami as he powered past hard-hitting Casper Ruud in the Miami Open final, 7-5, 6-4, to become the youngest champion in tournament history and the youngest Masters 1000 champion since his compatriot Rafael Nadal claimed the Monte-Carlo title in the spring of 2005.

Though it’s difficult to predict what Alcaraz’s legacy will look like a decade and a half from now, Nadal himself gave a glimpse into what tennis fans can expect after he defeated Alcaraz in a gripping three-setter two weeks ago, in the Indian Wells semis.

“I think he’s unstoppable in terms of his career,” Nadal deadpanned.

Alcaraz rising

Ruud looked more unstoppable in the early going on Sunday, as he raced out to a 3-0 lead behind sizzling forehands, but it didn’t take Alcaraz long to make sense of his challenge. The Spaniard started his road back immediately and finished the set by taking six of the final seven games.

Demonstrating a veteran’s poise and champion’s instinct, Alcaraz kept his foot on the gas in set two. He pounced early, converting his third break point to take a 1-0 lead, then expanded to a double-break lead for 3-0.

Ruud pushed back, converting his sixth break point to close to 3-1, and the Norwegian, also playing in his first Masters 1000 final, held serve the rest of the way, but Alcaraz would not relinquish the advantage.

He won 12 of his final 13 service points, holding at love to secure the title and a significant slice of Masters 1000 history.

Alcaraz set to rise to No 11

The victory means that the Spaniard will rise to a new career-high ranking, just outside of the ATP’s top-10. A glance at the ATP’s Race to Turin standings gives a clearer indication of how successful Alcaraz’s 2022 campaign has been thus far. The Spaniard leaps five spots to No 2 in the Race, and is now behind only Rafael Nadal.

Alcaraz improves to 18-2 on the season with his win, his only losses coming against Matteo Berrettini in a fifth-set tiebreaker at the Australian Open, and Rafael Nadal in a three set thriller earlier this month at Indian Wells.

“I’m running steps so fast,” Alcaraz said in television interview after the final. “I didn’t expect that. My goal was to end the year in the top-15, and now I’m 11, close to the top-10. I’m growing up so fast and I think that means that all the hard work that I put in every day [is paying dividends] – I’m so happy with the work, with my team, with everything I’ve done.”

Alcaraz – no words, but emotions for his coach

The Spaniard enjoyed an emotional celebration with his team and family after his victory.

“It’s pretty soon to describe my feelings right now. I have no words,” he said immediately after the match, but talked more afterwards about the importance of having his coach by his side on Sunday.

During his post-match ceremony Alcaraz paid tribute to his coach, former world No.1 and 2003 champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, who had flown back from Spain to be present for the final. Ferrero had missed the rest of the tournament due to the passing of his father Eduardo.

“Juan Carlos came yesterday, it’s a tough moment for him, I want to say thank you to him for coming to stay with me during this important moment for my career. It’s pretty amazing to share this with you,” Alcaraz said.

“It’s amazing to have Juan Carlos here with me,” Alcaraz elaborated later, in a post-final interview, the trophy perched beside him. “I talked with him every day, and it was a surprise – I didn’t now he was coming, I didn’t know anything, it was a big surprise for me, with him in the box it was pretty special.”

Nadal – the first of many

Moments after the victory, Rafael Nadal took to social media to congratulate his compatriot.

“Congratulations Carlitos for your HISTORICAL triumph in Miami,” Nadal wrote. “The first of many to come, for sure!”

“Rafa is my idol,” Alcaraz said after the final. “I looked up to him when I was young. He explained to me a lot. When I was younger, watching his matches, his big matches, it was pretty amazing to learn from him when I was young. And of course to be around him now on the tour, to be able to play against him is pretty special.”

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