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Carlos Alcaraz defeats Casper Ruud to become youngest Miami Open men's champion, claim maiden Masters 1000 title
The 18-year-old wiped away an early break deficit to take control of Sunday's final for a 7-5, 6-4 victory.
Published Apr 03, 2022
MATCH POINT: Alcaraz clinches biggest career trophy
Coming into Sunday, Spanish men had attempted to lift the Miami Open trophy on eight occasions. In all eight of those final-round appearances, each walked away disappointed as the runner-up.
Enter Carlos Alcaraz. The 18-year-old put an end to that dry spell in becoming the youngest men’s champion in tournament history—a benchmark previously held by Novak Djokovic—by defeating Casper Ruud, 7-5, 6-4. Alcaraz's third title of his young career, and first at the Masters 1000 level, also resulted in receiving a royal seal of approval.
"It's pretty amazing to get the call from the Spanish king. I was more nervous to that call than the match," a smiling Alcaraz told press about hearing from King Felipe VI.
Alcaraz is now 18-2 on the season and moves to No. 2 in the ATP Race To Turin heading into the European clay-court season. He’s projected to rise to No. 11 in Monday’s rankings, having begun 2022 as the world No. 32.
In the early goings, it was Alcaraz carrying nerves in a Miami championship clash boasting two first-time Masters 1000 finalists for the second consecutive year. The No. 14 seed made four unforced errors, all off his forehand wing, to drop his opening service game. But while Ruud would save a break point to hold for 4-1, a settled-in Alcaraz applied more and more pressure from the baseline to get back on serve.
At 5-4, 30-30, Ruud had a backhand pass for the taking to create set point. It instead missed just long. Though he would valiantly fight off a pair of set points in the ensuing game, the Norwegian’s grasp on the match had long been ripped away by the dynamic teenager.
"Unfortunately I was too low on the first-serve percentage," said Ruud. "That's dangerous against Alcaraz, because he returns well both first and second serves. But on the second serves, he stays very, very aggressive and makes a lot of good returns."
After wrapping up the opening set with aggressive serve-and-volley ploys, Alcaraz continued to shrink the court with a mix of big hitting, finesse and strong grasp of angles. It compelled Ruud to come forward more frequently, a position well out of his comfort zone. The result was the sixth seed falling behind by a double break.
Ruud would get one of them back by leaning into his forehand to get on the scoreboard, but ultimately couldn’t engineer a game plan to steer the contest in his direction. With Alcaraz serving at 4-3, 30-30, a second-serve forehand return up the line missed just wide; it was Ruud’s final glimmer of hope.
His opponent served out the encounter with ease a short time later, appropriately closing with a serve-and-volley, and sprinted to his player box to celebrate with coach Juan Carlos Ferrero. The former world No. 1 had missed the lead-up to the final after his father Eduardo passed away, but flew in to surprise Alcaraz, uploading the heartfelt reunion on his Instagram.
"Serve and volley was a key for me in this match. I did a lot, and I think that I won almost 100% of that points when I did serve and volley," Alcaraz assessed.
"I saw Casper returning at the back of the court, and yeah, I decide to serve to his backhand and go to the net. I mean, that Juan Carlos told me, You have to go for it in every moment."
Alcaraz improved to 2-0 against Ruud and picked up three Top 10 victories en route to his third career title. He’s now stepped into the winner’s circle at the 250, 500 and 1000 levels. Is the Grand Slam stage next?
Stay tuned for a full reaction from Steve Tignor. For more on Alcaraz's accomplishment, read our stats wrap.