Alcaraz Comes Of Age in Miami, Wins First Masters 1000 Title

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: ATP Tour video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, April 4, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Both Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz arrived at the title match of the Miami Open presented by Itaú Sunday afternoon each seeking to cap their dream run by winning their first ATP Masters 1000 crown.

Each had accumulated five victories – both had done so with the slightest of blemishes, a single set lost each – and both excited crowds along the way with their exciting brand of hard-court tennis.

Something had to give inside Hard Rock Stadium in this matchup between the No. 8 seed Ruud and No. 14 seed Alcaraz, right? But what?

As it happened, the 18-year-old Spaniard from El Palmar, Murcia, Spain captured the biggest ATP Tour title of his young professional career – a Masters 1000 crown – with his 7-5, 6-4 victory over World No. 8 Ruud. He completed the task in an hour and 52 minutes before an electrified crowd that filled the tennis stadium within a football stadium at the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

The World No. 16 Alcaraz, who will rise to No. 11 on Monday after winning his biggest and most important title, became the youngest men’s champion in the 37-year history of the Miami tournament and the third-youngest ATP Masters 1000 titlist overall (behind Michael Chang at Toronto in 1990 and Rafael Nadal at Monte-Carlo in 2005), covering 283 events dating back to 1990. He’s also the first Miami champion from Spain, something that Sergi Bruguera, Carlos Moya, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal never achieved.

“I have no words to describe how I feel right now,” Alcaraz said during a brief TV interview while awaiting the trophy ceremony. “It’s so special to win my first Masters 1000 here in Miami. I have an unbelievable team with me, family. … I’m so happy with the win and with my team.”

The victory was Alcaraz’s seventh against Top-10 opponents and it improved his 2022 win-loss record to 18-2, including 16-1 since the Australian Open. It was also his second ATP Tour title of the season to go his first ATP 500 crown won on clay at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in February. He moved into second place in the ATP Road to Turin point standings as the European clay season beckons.

Alcaraz overcame early jitters, deficit

Looking back, a terrific 61-minute first set was highlighted by Alcaraz’s uncanny ability to come back from down 0-3 and 1-4 once he got over early-match jitters. He re-set, stayed focused to the very end and won the set 7-5. The savvy Spaniard put away the opener on his third set-point opportunity with a third-shot overhead smash winner. If the Norwegian Ruud ever doubted himself, Alcaraz didn’t. It would be a difference maker for him as the title match continued to develop.

Then, in a 14-point game that opened the second set – lasting more than 10 minutes – Alcaraz broke on his third opportunity with a forehand lob winner that eluded Ruud. It drew fans to their feet and many of them were waving Spanish flags in a show of appreciation for their young hero. A winner of seven of the last eight games, Alcaraz consolidated the break at love for a 2-0 lead. Suddenly, Alcaraz was winning the inner game of both balance and movement and the more-experienced Ruud, a seven-time ATP Tour title winner, was showing his vulnerability. He was broken again by Alcaraz, whose mental toughness had improved as the match wore on. Suddenly, the young Spaniard found himself a set and 3-0 ahead of Ruud and the finish line to winning his first Masters 1000 title and becoming the youngest to do it in Miami started to come into focus.

However, Ruud’s competitive spirit wasn’t to be denied and in Alcaraz’s next service game, the 23-year-old from Oslo gained a love-40 advantage with three break points in his pocket to play with. But Alcaraz wasn’t to be denied and he saved all three of them to gain deuce. Then, he saved a fourth break point when Ruud netted a doable backhand return, and a fifth one with an overhead winner. Finally, Ruud converted his sixth break point of the 12-point game with forehand winner that capped an eight-shot rally to trail 1-3. He consolidated the break with a love hold but was still down by a game. Following a medical time out that enabled Ruud to receive treatment on his left hip, Alcaraz responded with a love hold for a 4-2 advantage.

A game later, ahead 4-3, Alcaraz held for 5-3. He needed just one more hold of serve to win. After Ruud remained steady in the ninth game, Alcaraz came out in the 10th game and got the job done. He dropped just two points in his final three service games and won his last six service points. Alcaraz’s backhand volley winner coming into the net put away the championship match.

“I knew that Casper is playing unbelievable,” Alcaraz said. “He has a big forehand. I tried to play to his backhand first and attack all of the time. I tried not to let him dominate the match. Forehand down the line, backhand down the line was a pretty good key for me.”

Alcaraz finished with six aces and 27 winners to 22 unforced errors. He won 75 percent (36 of 48) of his first-serve points and saved six of the eight break points he faced from Ruud. Meanwhile, Ruud struck five aces and hit 19 winners while committing 22 unforced errors. Alcaraz broke Ruud’s serve four times in nine tries and outpointed him 76-65.

While Ruud was appearing in his 10th ATP Tour final – and looking to win his second hard-court title following his championship run in San Diego last year – he was the first from Norway to appear in a Masters 1000 final. The loss dropped his finals win-loss record to 7-3, while Alcaraz remained undefeated in finals at 3-0.

By the end of the afternoon, despite all of the pre-tournament favorites being long gone, one thing Alcaraz proved is that with passion and hunger anything is possible. He showed plenty of skills during the South Florida fortnight. The future of men’s tennis looks bright.

Women’s doubles title won by Siegemund and Zvonareva

The Miami Open women’s doubles title match featured a first-time meeting between No. 1 seeds Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Elise Mertens of Belgium against unseeded Laura Siegemund of Germany and Vera Zvonareva of Russia. The champion’s trophy went to the German/Russian team of Siegemund and Zvonareva, who won 7-6 (3), 7-5, in an hour and 51 minutes. Siegemund and Zvonareva overcame a break in each set to pull out their biggest victory of the season.

After winning a title together earlier this season in Lyon, France, the two tour veterans – Siegemund is 34 and Zvonareva is 37 – strung together five straight wins in South Florida, including a semifinal win on Friday over Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia and Yang Zhaoxuan of China, in which they saved five match points.

Against Kudermetova and Mertens, Siegemund and Zvonareva outpointed their opponents 78-66 and converted three of five break points.

Overall, this was Siegemund’s eighth WTA Tour doubles title, and the 12th for Zvonareva’s. They teamed together to win the 2020 US Open.

Nadal congratulates Alcaraz via social media

Soon after Carlos Alcaraz won the Miami Open, his idol and fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal, himself a five-time Miami finalist, sent congratulations via social media.

“Many congratulations Carlitos @alcarazcarlos03 for your historical triumph in Miami,” Nadal wrote on Twitter. “The first of many to come for sure!👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻🇪🇸”

By the numbers

By winning the Miami Open men’s singles title Sunday, Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest in the tournament’s 37-year history at 18 years 11 months. The remaining top five: 2. Novak Djokovic (19 years 10 months in 2007); 3. Andre Agassi (19 years 11 months in 1990); 4. Michael Chang (20 years 1 month in 1992); 5. Jim Courier (20 years 7 months in 1991).

“Quotable …”

“High emotions all around, the joy for Alcaraz. Not only is he the future, he is right here and right now a force in men’s tennis. Spain finally has a men’s winner [in Miami]. It’s not [Rafael] Nadal, it’s potentially his heir-apparent. This kid is so fun to watch, he’s such a complete player already. He managed that moment really well, a really calm finish.”

– Hall of Famer Jim Courier, who analyzed the Carlos Alcaraz-Casper Ruud final for Tennis Channel in North America.