The phenomenon of 18 years Carlos Alcaraz, called to soon reign over world tennis, will try to record his irresistible rise Sunday in the final of the Masters 1000 in Miami, of which he can become the youngest winner if he beats the tough Norwegian Casper Ruud.
The Spaniard, 16th in the world, was intractable against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz (10th), who was the titleholder and fought with all his strength to keep it. But he gave in to a rock, which left him almost no chance to make the difference in a very close match, concluded by two decisive games, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (6/2), after 2:05.
“Hubert was the defending champion, he played well, but I played very well. It will be my first grand final on a hard court, but I have confidence in myself, and I will enjoy it,” he said.
Semi-finalist two weeks ago in Indian Wells, only beaten by Rafael Nadal after a big fight, Alcaraz is following in the footsteps of his glorious elder – something that all of the decidedly spoiled tennis Spain has known for a long time – since he became the second-youngest player in history to reach the final of the event, after the Mallorcan. The latter was a month younger than him in 2005.
On the other hand, he can do even better on Sunday with a victory, where Nadal had finally conceded against Roger Federer.
Revealed in monovision six months ago at the US Open where he reached the quarters, eliminating in the process the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, then 3rd in the world, after an epic struggle of more than four hours, Carlos Alcaraz can take a serious step in his meteoric progression, which saw him win the tournament in Rio de Janeiro in February, his second on the circuit after the more modest one in Umag (Croatia) last summer.
Against Hurkacz, it was another duel of knockers that he fought, after the superb battle won the day before at the expense of the Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic (48th), who nevertheless led 5-3 in the tie break of the third set. This time, no “remontada”.
Everyone kept their serve in the first set. In the decisive game, Carlos Alcaraz erased a mini-break at 4-2, then offered himself a set ball on a delight of uncrossed cushioning, immediately converted with a return in the feet of the Pole, whose half-volley failed in the net.
Frustrated, the 25-year-old Pole, who dreamed of becoming the fifth player to retain his title in Florida after Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic, swung his racket in spite.
But he did not give up in the second set, whose level of play is still rising, with sumptuous points, such as those exchanges at the net at 5-5 where the two competed in malice. In the decisive game, Alcaraz made the difference, more enterprising and diabolical in defense, much to the chagrin of Hurkacz, helpless and disappointed.
Earlier, Casper Ruud (8th in the world) had more easily disposed of (6-4, 6-1) Francisco Cerundolo (103rd), a surprise guest of the last square.
“Reaching a Masters 1000 final was a goal, but I didn’t expect it to be here in Miami,” said the clay specialist, the first Norwegian to reach this stage of a tournament in this category, after losing his three previous semi-finals in Monte Carlo, Madrid, and Rome.
Impressive power against Alexander Zverev in the quarters, he started as the big favorite against the Argentine neophyte.
If Cerundolo resisted well in the first set, even managing to break the first, Ruud hastened to erase this advantage in the next game before making his experience speak, despite their common age (23 years), to pocket the round in the 10th game, pushing his opponent to the fault.
After a break in the dressing room, Ruud accelerated the pace, being more aggressive and more precise, relying on the forehand, his great strength. Cerundolo, understanding that he would have no chance of creating the feat, quickly gave in.