Monday, November 28

Alcaraz begins an era in Miami

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates his historic triumph lying on the ground. / AFP

Masters 1,000

The Murcian prevailed over the Norwegian Ruud in two sets, won his first Masters 1,000 at just 18 years of age and emulated Nadal, who at his age won Monte Carlo

Ignatius Tyko

It was his dream day, his first final of a major tournament. After an extraordinary tour in Florida, Carlos Alcaraz met at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami with the Norwegian Casper Ruud, the eighth player in the world and a pupil of Rafa Nadal’s academy. At stake, nothing less than a Masters 1,000, the premiere in a title of this magnitude for both. They had only met once. It was on clay and the Spaniard beat the best Viking player of the moment by a resounding 6-2, 6-4. But that was a year ago in Marbella. This Sunday, the story was different. The Murcian had grown exponentially in these months, evolved in his game, and he knew what it is to knock down racket figures and even put Rafa Nadal himself against the ropes in the semifinals of Indian Wells. But he had to endorse it at the peak moment. And he did it with a demonstration of physique, touch and above all head, mental strength, which only the greats have.

The Murcian is no longer that player who languished off the clay. Now, his potential is huge on any surface. He had also shown it this week throughout his tour of Miami, with the ability to adapt to different scenarios in matches, as happened with the Greek Tsitsipas or with Kecmanovic in the quarterfinals. Ruud presented his most lethal weapon on serve, but it was also possessed by the Polish Hurkacz and he succumbed to the class and power of the Murcian player. The moment of truth arrived, where responsibility grows, nerves flare and muscles tense. And the new star of Spanish tennis did not fail. He clearly went from less to more and after starting with 1-4 adverse, he grew to clearly prevail by 7-5 and 6-4 in one hour and 52 minutes.

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The ‘wonder boy’ is no longer a promise, he is a reality, the youngest champion in Miami. At just 18 years and 11 months old, he became the first Spanish player to win this tournament. And he remembered that Rafa Nadal who with a month less than him won in Monte Carlo. At the age of 19, the man from Manacor was crowned in his first Roland Garros. Big words. Alcaraz is on the way, slowly but surely, without added pressure, with work and talent.

To all the tension that a final entails for a boy of only 18 years of age, we must add the emotion that it represented for the tennis player from El Palmar to have received hours before the big moment the enthusiastic visit of Juan Carlos Ferrero, his coach, his support, his mentor, his life on a professional level. The former Valencian tennis player had not been able to travel to Miami from the beginning due to the death of his father, but after the semifinal he bit the bullet and went to Florida. A heartfelt hug with Alcaraz, an extraordinary gift for the already reality of Spanish tennis, an added motivation.

The Master’s Embrace

Alcaraz started too nervous, who in just 13 minutes had already suffered a break in his service and lost 3-0. He was not there, but he had to concentrate, paddle, hold on to the track and wait for the Norwegian to lower his performance and he would consolidate more solidly in his shots. Carlitos’ first game finally arrived. It cost him, but there was his first ‘game’ in a Masters 1,000 final. He suffered to enter the game, but he was already fully involved in it. Not even 1-4 made a dent in the Murcian, who swam to the shore in the opening set and won 7-5 after exactly one hour of play. He went from missing a lot of first serves to winning 80% of his first serve points. He stopped making hasty dropshots and went more boldly towards the net. Success.

Long game to open the second round, with service for the Nordic. And Alcaraz won it on the third ‘break’ ball that he had. He was winning on the track because of the class of him, but mostly because of the power of his mind. Ruud was hesitating more and more, he was failing at the net, making bad decisions. He won his next serve against the Spaniard and again achieved the ‘break’. He already had a 9-1 run since he lost 1-4 in the first set. The most anticipated duel of him was already very well outlined.

He had half a glass in his hand but the most difficult thing was missing, knowing how to hold it. Alcaraz was going downhill, at full speed but safely. In the fourth game of this second set, Alcaraz raised up to five break points, but gave up in the sixth. Ruud had seen everything lost and threw himself desperately. He confirmed that break by winning his serve to love. There was an end. The Norwegian required at that time the assistance of the physiotherapist. Three minutes of medical time for one, reflection for another. Back, just over a minute and a couple of ‘aces’ to get 4-2. Blank game. From then on, each one kept their serve, until Alcaraz won the final in white. Enormous. Dedicated to Ferrero, to the father of ‘Juanqui’, to that grandfather who prescribed him “head, heart and balls” and to all of Spain.

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