In the first major triumph of his meteoric career, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz defeated Norway’s Casper Ruud on Sunday to become the youngest champion in the history of the Miami Masters 1000.
At 18 years and 11 months, the explosive Spanish tennis player also ended the curse of Spanish tennis in this tournament, one of the most prestigious on the circuit after the Grand Slams.
His idol Rafael Nadal was runner-up five times and three other Spaniards also lost in the finals.
Alcaraz, undefeated in his three ATP finals, did not tremble and beat Ruud 7-5, 6-4, supported by the audience at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami (Florida).
This triumph makes him the earliest champion in the 37 editions of the tournament, surpassing Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (19 years and 10 months in 2007).
“When I won the last point, everything came to my mind. All the dreams, the hard work, the training, the problems,” a beaming Alcaraz recalled to the press.
The Spaniard began to confirm his immense potential in a final that none of the contenders to succeed the ATP ‘Big 3’ formed by Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer, all absent from Miami for different reasons, could reach.
In the set of Masters 1000 tournaments, Alcaraz is the third youngest champion after the American Michael Chang in Toronto in 1990 (18 years and 157 days) and Nadal in Monte Carlo in 2005 (18 years and 318 days).
“Many congratulations Carlitos for your HISTORIC triumph in Miami. The first of many to come, for sure!” congratulated Nadal, who is recovering from injury, on Twitter.
“I admire Rafa and learn from him. I remember watching his big matches in important moments. I learned a lot from that,” Alcaraz acknowledged him in turn.
First Spanish Win
Nadal himself, the tennis player with the most Grand Slam titles (21), fell short of the title in Miami on five occasions: 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017.
Neither did Spanish finalists Sergi Bruguera (1997), Carlos Moyá (2003) and David Ferrer (2013).
Alcaraz ended the drought in a tense final, in which he did not get to show all his exuberant tennis but did show unusual coolness to come back from a 1-4 deficit in the first set.
Ruud, with a higher ranking in the ATP ranking (8th to Alcaraz’s 16th) could not recover from his opponent’s comeback in the first set.
The Spaniard had been warning that something big was coming since he knocked out Stefanos Tsitsipas, then world number three, in September and became the earliest player to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals in the Open era (since 1968).
In February, he became the youngest to win an ATP 500-caliber tournament with his triumph in Rio de Janeiro and to break into the ATP top-20 among active players.
“I’m burning stages so fast…. I didn’t expect this. My goal was to finish the year in the top-15 (ATP) and I’m already at number 11,” he said. “Now I would like to win a Grand Slam but that’s something very big.”
His coach, former player Juan Carlos Ferrero, believes he is now ready to reach the home stretch of major tournaments.
“The talent is there, and I think this is going to happen many times. It’s just a matter of preparing him a little bit mentally to adapt to the whole circus that’s coming,” said the former world number one.
From Promise to Reality
In Sunday’s final, Alcaraz paid early on for the nerves of coming in as favorite and, in too much of a hurry to finish points, he was more imprecise than usual.
Ruud took advantage of this to break his serve at the first opportunity and take a 1-4 lead. Alcaraz kept his composure, broke Ruud for the first time and accelerated to tie 4-4.
The confidence had changed sides and Ruud took a step back before the avalanche of tennis from Alcaraz, who broke in the eleventh game and finished off the set with his serve.
The Spaniard kept his foot on the gas and took a 3-0 lead in the second set. The Norwegian burned his last cartridges to close to 3-4 but Alcaraz did not resent the vertigo and sealed the victory by holding his serve.
Excited, the Spaniard ran to the stands in search of his father Carlos, former player and director of the tennis school in Murcia (east) where he gave his first racquets, and also Ferrero.
The coach was barely able to travel to Miami for the final after the passing of his father.
“It’s a difficult moment for him and I want to thank him for being with me,” Alcaraz said on the podium with the trophy with which he crosses the threshold from promise to reality.