By David Villafranca
Sports Desk, Apr 3 (EFE).- At just 18, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz won the Miami Open tennis tourney on Sunday, thus becoming the youngest player ever to win this Masters 1000 contest and the first Spaniard to triumph in the men’s category.
Alcaraz, ranked No. 16 in the world, defeated Norway’s Casper Ruud, who holds the No. 8 spot in the ATP, 7-5 and 6-4 in an hour and 52 minutes.
Breaking down barriers at a fascinating clip, Alcaraz also became the third-youngest tennis player ever to win a Grand Slam tournament, following only his countryman Rafael Nadal and US player Michael Chang.
Just after winning the most important event of his career so far, Alcaraz embraced his trainer Juan Carlos Ferrero, who had arrived at the last minute in Miami after the death of his father.
“Eduardo, always with us,” wrote Alcaraz as a tribute to his coach’s father.
Alcaraz also overcame the Spanish “curse” in Miami, where tennis players from his country had lost the last eight men’s finals – Nadal five times, along with David Ferrer, Carlos Moya and Sergi Bruguera – while in the women’s category Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez Vicario had won in 1992 and 1993.
The Miami win culminates a meteoric rise for the Spanish phenom who has emerged as the big sensation in the tennis world in 2022.
In recent months, this surprising youngster has gotten himself into the quarterfinals of last year’s US Open, won his first titles (Umag 20231 and Rio de Janeiro 2022) and lost to Nadal in the semifinals at Indian Wells two weeks ago.
Now, Alcaraz will move up to No. 11 in the ATP rankings and looks to be the new generation’s heir to the trio of stars made up of Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
In a hard-fought final on a hot and humid day, and with a huge contingent of Hispanic fans on hand to support him, Alcaraz had trouble in the early going as Ruud, 23, came out with a vengeance.
Playing precise and very focused tennis, the Norwegian was right on target with his serves, and he broke the service of his young rival, who seemed tense and committed too many errors on his own serve, missing three in 12 minutes.
With a very aggressive and mobile game going, Ruud put heavy pressure on the Spaniard, although the latter was able to overcome his nerves little by little.
Alcaraz managed to even up the first set but could not immediately pull ahead, although on Ruud’s next service he finally was able to find the right combination, showing a huge amount of confidence and bringing the match to 3-4.
Picking up his game, Alcaraz also increased the power of his shots at a key moment, and at 5-5 he took the game to 15-40 after a fantastic right crossing shot, then capitalized on an error by his rival to make it 6-5 and finally snatched the set with a fabulous rebound shot after an hour and 2 minutes of play.
From then on, Alcaraz seemed to be in the driver’s seat, hammering Ruud with his right, gaining strength and reliability with his serve and grabbing let points at the most unexpected times.
Ruud, on the other hand, seemed to encounter more and more difficulties as Alcaraz caught fire, having his service broken once and then again as the Spaniard swept to 3-0.
But the Norwegian was not ready to go under without more of a fight and after losing five break points he broke Alcaraz’s service and miraculously got the match to 3-2.
Alcaraz did not flinch amid the growing threat, however, and retained his focus during the medical pause asked for by Ruud for back problems.
From there, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Spaniard would cruise on to the winning result, falling to the ground upon taking the final game and grabbing his head in joy, relief and triumph.