Carlos Alcaraz is favourite to win the US Open final – but he could now go and succeed Rafael Nadal


Wimbledon being stripped of ranking points this year would always have a ripple effect, and part of the wash-up comes in Sunday’s US Open final.

It is not the only factor involved, but one unintended consequence is that whoever wins Sunday’s US Open final, Carlos Alcaraz or Casper Ruud, will make the ascent to No 1 in the rankings.

The banning of Russians and lack of points, this season’s self-inflicted absences of Novak Djokovic – they have contributed to a profound shift at the top.

Carlos Alcaraz is looking to win his first Grand Slam at the age of just 19 years old on Sunday

Most consequential will be a victory for Alcaraz, who earlier than expected will authenticate himself as the new superstar of the game. It would be an elevation that has long since seemed only a matter of time.

After yet another thrilling late night victory, this time shooting down America’s Frances Tiafoe in five sets, the teenager from Murcia described the scenario as ‘crazy’: ‘A final of a Grand Slam, fighting for the No 1 in the world, something that I dream since I was a kid,’ he said.

Like Pete Sampras, who he faintly resembles, Alcaraz would be US Open champion at 19. And, like Sampras, he may occupy the space for a long time (the Californian managed 286 weeks) through the regular acquisition of Major titles.

Ruud would likely be less permanent, for he has never won anything bigger than a tournament at 250-level.

The talented teenager has already shown potential to become one of tennis's future stars

The talented teenager has already shown potential to become one of tennis’s future stars

In a strange twist, he would become the least likely No 1 since the man currently coaching Alcaraz, Juan Carlos Ferrero, who had an eight-week spell there in the pre-Federer and Nadal era.

Another indication of these times of flux, and of Wimbledon’s reduced status this year, is that whoever wins will have the lowest total of points for a No 1 in the modern era of the ranking system.

This should not suggest that Alcaraz’s ascent is some sort of accident, because it is rather a logical progression.

He has already won two ATP Masters 1000 events this year, Miami and Madrid, and in the latter he beat Nadal and Djokovic consecutively.

The Spaniard is tipped to succeed his compatriot Rafael Nadal (above) at the top of the game

The Spaniard is tipped to succeed his compatriot Rafael Nadal (above) at the top of the game

It would be very different to fellow teenager Emma Raducanu winning a singles title a year ago. Saturday night her successor was being anointed, either Ons Jabeur or Iga Swiatek.

The British player was a bolt from the blue, who had somehow skipped many developmental steps. Alacaraz, physically mature for his age, has been through them all.

He is an astonishingly good athlete with lightning pace. Tiafoe, a great addition to the upper ranks who drew the likes of Michelle Obama to support him on Friday night, spelled out how the Spaniard looks sure to succeed Nadal.

His bullish physique and movement around the court has already left rivals concerned

His bullish physique and movement around the court has already left rivals concerned

‘I never played a guy who moves as well as him, honestly. I was hitting some drop volleys and he’s getting there, he hits the ball so hard and he’s able to extend points,’ said the American.

‘For him to be so young, being so poised in big moments, he’s a hell of a player. He’s going to be a problem for a very long time.’ That includes being a likely disruptor in the contest between Nadal and Djokovic to see who wins the most Majors.

His bullish physique gives him a resilience which has seen him survive three straight five-set matches: ‘ Last year I just played three Grand Slams before US Open. Now I’ve played more matches in five sets, I am more prepared mentally and physically,’ said Alcaraz, who nonetheless admitted he felt tired.

This could be a factor and Ruud, the potential spoiler, should not be underestimated.

He was destined to be a tennis player under the tutelage of his father Christian, an ex-top 50 player, and spent time as a teenager developing at the Nadal academy in Mallorca.

Casper Rudd will be looking to stop Alcaraz in New York and also land his first Grand Slam

Casper Rudd will be looking to stop Alcaraz in New York and also land his first Grand Slam

When his Dad was around draws would be filled with Swedes. Now the best player from Scandanavia hails from the lucky country which produces not just oil and gas, but an unlikely array of sportspeople such as Erling Haaland.

‘He’s had an unbelievable season so far. It’s a joy to watch him score goal after goal,’ said Ruud.

‘He’s obviously the biggest star we have in Norway for the moment. He’ll probably continue to be so for many more years. A lot of people are watching him and the winter sports.

‘We have obviously also a golfer [Viktor Hovland] who is top 10 in the world who people enjoy following. I guess also it’s a little bit the same with tennis.’

Ruud, 23, has been a gradual bloomer and does a lot of things well, without being spectacular at anything. The experience of being in the French Open final in June will help him, but the force is with Alcaraz for a final that will take place at 9pm UK time Sunday evening.



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