Victory at Flushing Meadows on Sunday night saw Carlos Alcaraz anointed both the US Open champion and the new world number one.
The victor of the New York final between Alcaraz and Casper Ruud would climb to the top of the ATP rankings, and a four-set success for the 19-year-old made him the youngest ever men’s number one.
That record had previously belonged to a 20-year-old Lleyton Hewitt in November 2000.
Although Alcaraz’s huge potential has long been public knowledge, the chances of him beating Hewitt’s mark still seemed remote when he started 2022 ranked 32nd.
Even Juan Carlos Ferrero, the Spaniard’s coach, did not anticipate a major breakthrough this soon, telling reporters after Sunday’s win: “Of course, it comes very fast.
“It’s a surprise for everybody except maybe to me, because I trained with him every day and I know [how] he’s able to play on the court, [but] I was pretty sure that maybe it wasn’t this year; it could be the next one.”
— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) September 11, 2022
By the time he took to Arthur Ashe Stadium against Ruud, however, Alcaraz’s ascent to the top of the sport was a surprise to nobody.
Moving from number four to first place might have tied the biggest leap to number one in rankings history, but Alcaraz leads the ATP Tour in both match wins (51) and titles (five) in 2022.
There is little prospect of him slowing now, having become the first man in the Open Era to win the US Open title as early as in his second entry; the last to do so in any era was Pancho Gonzales back in 1948.
“Of course, I’m hungry for more,” Alcaraz said afterwards. “I want to be in the top for many, many weeks. Hopefully many years.
“I’m going to work hard again after this week, this amazing two weeks. I’m going to fight to have more of this.”
And Alcaraz will have to fight – Ferrero knows as much as that.
“The players now are going to play very motivated against him,” the teenager’s coach added. “Now he’s number one. Before he was two or three.
“Even like this, it’s like Real Madrid-Barcelona, there’s a rivalry that gets you [to] increase your level. It’s what is going to happen to him against his opponents. He has to be ready.”
Since Roger Federer became the 23rd different men’s number one in February 2004, the rankings have been dominated by the ‘Big Three’, with only Andy Murray and then, this year, Daniil Medvedev also leading the Tour in that time.
Now, as the 28th number one, Alcaraz – compared by Ruud to each of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – can set about securing his own long stay at the summit.