Casper Ruud finishes second at US Open and puts Norway on tennis world map

Ruud

Photo: Pontius Höök / NTB
US Open winner Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, 19 (left), and runner-up Casper Ruud, 23, of Norway (right) pose with former tennis star and now ESPN analyst John McEnroe.

MICHAEL KLEINER
Business and Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

In the world of men’s tennis, there were so many firsts at the US Open, and the young are leading a new order.

All four semifinalists were new to that round, the first time that has happened since the inaugural US Open in 1881.

It was the first time the final pitted two newcomers playing for the world’s No. 1 ranking. It was the first time Norway and tennis were connected.

When 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain defeated Casper Ruud of Norway 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadow, New York, Sept. 11, he won his first Grand Slam title and became the youngest player to be ranked best in the world. It was the second Grand Slam final for Ruud this season, having reached the title match at the Paris Open where he lost to his idol, Rafael Nadal, also from Spain. He missed the Australian Open with a rolled ankle. Alcaraz, who was seeded third and ranked fourth before the tournament was the youngest finalist since Pete Sampras in 1990. Ruud was seeded fifth and ranked seventh.

“Everywhere I go, on the ATP Tour, the Grand Slams, I represent Norway because the Norwegian flag is always behind or in front of my name,” said Ruud on the US Open website. “I want to represent Norway in a good way and put Norwegian tennis a little bit more on the map than it’s been the last years.”

While it was a historic day on the court, it was not lost on Ruud that this was the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Penn., in 2001.

“This day is an emotional day for Americans,” he said at the award presentation. “I said prayers for all the people who lost their lives on that tragic day in the incidents that happened in this city and beautiful country of yours. My heart and prayers go out to all those who lost a loved one. Something we should never forget.”

Applause and chants of “Ruud” followed.

Tennis was a diversion for a few hours. Many TV analysts predicted Alcaraz (51-9 most wins in the season) would beat Ruud for the third time, some saying it would be in straight sets. A possible edge for Ruud (44-16, season high for wins) was that Alcaraz had played three straight five-set matches, each lasting more than four hours and ending after 2 a.m.

Neither Alcaraz nor Ruud wanted to concede a ball, each running from the net to the backlines as the ball appeared to be going out and returning it.  At times, Ruud was setting up from the wall of the stands.  Alcaraz was adept at, after engaging in hard shot volleys, dropping the ball into the box opposite where the previous shot had been hit. Ruud couldn’t get to the ball, but Alcaraz hit a number of balls into the nets.

In the first game of the first set, Ruud, serving, took a  30-0 lead but Alcaraz rallied. At 40-40 after a great volley, Alcaraz hit the net giving Ruud the game.

In the second game, with Alcaraz serving, he fell behind 15-40 but two shots into the net by Ruud evened the score at 40.  Alcaraz touched another shot into the left box to even the set at 1-1.

Alcaraz broke Ruud’s serve in the third game after jumping to a 40-0 lead.

Game 4 also went to 40-40 before Alcaraz whipped a shot that Ruud fanned on like a baseball batter. It gave the Spainard a 3-1 lead in the set.

With Ruud serving.in Game 5, he ripped offf a quick four straight points cutting his deficit to 2-3.

Alcaraz took Game 6, using a backhand drop into the box, and Ruud jumped to a 40-15 lead in Game 7, cutting the score to 3-4. A display of honesty came in Game 8 when Ruud raced toward the net to return the ball but the ball hit the court twice before Ruud hit it. Alcaraz played it, but Ruud told the chair umpire the ball hit twice. Alcaraz’s game-winner just hit the line and he had a 5-3 lead in the set.

ruud

Photo: Pontius Höök / NTB
Casper Ruud of Norway goes to his backhand to return a shot from Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in the final of the US Open, the final Grand Slam event of the season.

Ruud served in Game 9 and jumped to a 40-15 lead and Alcaraz’s set lead was down to one again 4-5. Alcaraz left no doubt umping to a 40-0 lead in Game 10, Ruud hit the net. The first set was Alcaraz’s 6-4.

In the second set, first game, Ruud got another  winner on a net shot, then Alcaraz scored four straight points in Game 2 to even the count at 1-1. That was duplicated by Ruud in Game 3, then Alcaraz evened things at 2-2. Ruud captured the next four games for a 6-2 set victory. Three of the games went to 40-40.

Then, came the fateful third set that would give one of the players an edge.

Alcaraz took the first two games, but Ruud wasn’t backing down, taking the next three to lead the set 3-2. They alternated winning games and entered an 11th tied at 5-5. Ruud took four straight points to take a 6-5 lead.  In the 12th game, there were six shots at 40-40.  Alcaraz eventually won the game 6-6, then breezed through a quick tiebreaker 7-1, putting him one winning set from winning the title.

“Carlos stepped up in the third set,” said Ruud in the post-match press conference. “It was in my favor. I had 10 points I couldn’t take care of. Carlos played so well on those points, and we’ve seen that before. He steps up when he needs to. When he’s close, he pulls out great shots.”

In the fourth set, after Ruud evened the set at 2-2, Alcaraz took four of the next five games to close out the set and match 6-3.

“It was a fun and exciting match to be part of with a lot of fun rallies and tough shots,” said Ruud. “I’m disappointed it didn’t go my way. That’s the way it goes. I’m proud of the match I played. In the two weeks, I played phenomenal tennis, probably my best tennis ever. Hopefully, I’ll get another chance at a slam.”

One memory will be from the semifinal. Ruud won a set-point with a 55-volley exchange that lasted over a minute.

“It’s impressive what Carlos has achieved as a teenager,” said Ruud. “It’s hard to believe he’s only a teenager. He’s more than four years younger than I am.  He’s one of those rare talents that come about in sports every now and then. Let’s see how his career develops but it’s going in all the right directions. He shows incredible fighting spirit and will to win. He was down a match point a couple of matches ago and was able to come back and win the tournament. He’s riding the wave at the moment. He deserves that spot.

“I’m very proud of being No. 2. In a way, it’s a good thing because I can still chase the last spot. There’s only one more spot to conquer.”

 

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.

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