Ruud, Alcaraz Each A Win Away From US Open Title, No. 1 Ranking

Casper Ruud (photo: Darren Carroll/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 10, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Looking back, it should be noted for the record that the New York crowd – nearly 24,000 strong – that filled Arthur Ashe Stadium Friday afternoon were not booing at Casper Ruud, the first Norwegian man to reach the US Open singles final. Far from it, actually.

They were cheering “Ruuuuuuuuuud!” And with good reason, too.

The 23-year-of Ruud, seeded fifth, who is coached by his father Christian, a former ATP professional, reached his second Grand Slam final of the season and of his career after besting Karen Khachanov of Russia, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. The victory moved Ruud to within a win of not only capturing the US Open title, which would be his first major crown, but it also kept him in the chase for the No. 1 ranking in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

On Sunday, it will be a winner-take-all final as Ruud will face World No. 4 and third seed Carlos Alcaraz, the 19-year-old Spanish prodigy, with the No. 1 ranking on the line going to the champion.

In Friday evening’s second semifinal, Alcaraz recovered from losing an opening-set tie-break and went the distance to beat No. 22 seed Frances Tiafoe of the United States, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3, in four hours and 19 minutes. It was the third straight five-set win for Alcaraz, who hit 59 winners and outpointed Tiafoe 171-142. Now, whomever wins the US Open title on Sunday will be a first-time major titlist and become World No. 1, too.

“It’s amazing to be able to fight for big things. First time in the final of a Grand Slam. I can see the No. 1 in the world, but at the same time it’s so far away,” Alcaraz said during his on-court interview with ESPN’s Patrick McEnroe. “I have one more to go against a player who is unbelievable. He deserves to play a final. He played the final of a Grand Slam in Roland Garros. This is my first time. 

“I’m going to give everything that I have. I will have to handle the nerves of being in a final of a Grand Slam, but obviously I’m really, really happy and as I said before every match, I’m going to enjoy. I’m going to enjoy the moment and let’s see what happens.”

Throughout the three-hour first semifinal, Ruud did his best to stifle the powerful 27th seed Khachanov’s hitting, which include winning an epic 55-shot rally to capture the first set. He forced the 26-year-old Russian into committing 41 unforced errors, which overshadowed his 15 aces and 43 winners. Meanwhile, Ruud turned in a very high-quality performance to win. He served 10 aces, hit 53 winners to 35 unforced errors, won 20 of 23 points at the net and converted six of 13 break points. Also, he won 83 percent of his first-serve points and backed it with a 59-percent success rate on his second serve and outpointed his opponent 128-104.

“This match today was another great match from my side,” Ruud said during his on-court interview with ESPN‘s James Blake. “I think we were both a bit nervous at the beginning, a few breaks back and forth. But you have to take into account that this match is probably the biggest in both of our careers. Of course, there will also be some nerves but I was fortunate to win that first set, which calmed my nerves a little bit.

“I played phenomenal in the second and Karen stepped up in the third. It was back and forth like every five-setter is, but I am just so happy. After Roland Garros, I was extremely happy but of course humble enough to think that could be my only final at a Grand Slam in my career. It doesn’t come easy, but here I am back again a couple [of] months later.”

Although Ruud had never advanced beyond the third round in four previous US Open appearances, this year has produced a different result. Through the fortnight, Ruud has garnered victories over Kyle Edmund, Tim van Rijthoven, No. 29 seed Tommy Paul, Corentin Moutet, No. 13 Matteo Berrettini and Khachanov, who was appearing in his first Grand Slam semifinal. Ruud’s win over Khachanov, which improved his head-to-head against the Russian to 2-0, was also his 44th tour-level triumph of the season, tied with Cameron Norrie. Only Carlos Alcaraz (49) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (46) have won more.

Ram and Salisbury repeat as US Open men’s doubles champs

No.1 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain successfully defended their 2021 US Open title. Friday afternoon on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Ram and Salisbury defeated No. 2 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain, 7-6 (4), 7-5, in an hour and 56 minutes.

The title was the third major won by Ram and Salisbury, who also won the 2020 Australian Open crown. They are the first back-to-back men’s doubles champs at the US Open in 26 years, since Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde in 1995-96.

Against Koolhof and Skupski, the champions hit 32 winners to just eight unforced errors and converted two of four break points. They outscored their opponents 83-78 to improve their lifetime win-loss record at Flushing Meadows to 17-2.

The top seeds also qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals as a result of winning the US Open title, becoming the second team after Koolhof and Skupski to reach the year-end finale.

Salisbury, a winner of 11 tour-level titles, will maintain his World No. 1 status following the title victory.

During the trophy ceremony, Ram said: “I really don’t have any words. I got to come here the first year this stadium opened and play Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day when I was 14 and I watched [Pete] Sampras win this tournament. I watched James [Blake play an amazing match against Andre Agassi in 2005. I watched Andy Roddick win this tournament and Venus and Serena. To be a small part of that as an American, I don’t even know what to say. Thank youguys so much for coming out.”

Salisbury added: “It is pretty crazy. I can’t quite believe it that we are standing here again. It is so, special to be playing in this incredible stadium in front of all of you. To have this piece of history, winning this twice in a row is amazing.”

Ram and Salisbury improved to 31-12 on the 2022 season. In addition to winning the US Open this season, they’ve won Masters 1000 titles in Monte Carlo and Cincinnati and were semifinalists at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Townsend and McNally reach women’s doubles title match

Unseeded Americans Taylor Townsend and Caty McNally rallied from a set and a break down to defeat No. 12 seeds Storm Sanders of Australia and Caroline Dolehide of the United States, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, in an hour and 34 minutes on Louis Armstrong Stadium to advance to Sunday’s women’s doubles final.

In the title match, Townsend and McNally will face No. 3 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, both of the Czech Republic, who won Wimbledon earlier this summer.

Krejcikova and Siniakova need only a US Open crown to complete a career doubles Grand Slam, while McNally reached the US Open women’s doubles final a year ago teamed with Coco Gauff and lost the title match to Samantha Stosur of Australia and Zhang Shuai of China.

Sanders will return Saturday to play in the mixed doubles final with fellow Aussie John Peers against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.

Pair of No. 2 seeds to play for junior boys’ and girls’ singles titles

Gilles Arnaud Bailly of Belgium and Lucie Havlickova of the Czech Republic, both seeded second, enter Saturday’s junior boys’ and girls’ singles finals as the highest-remaining seeds.

Bailly defeated No. 9 seed Chak Lam Coleman Wong of Hong Kong, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to advance against No. 5 seed Martin Landaluce of Spain, who upset No. 1 see Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay, 6-3, 6-2.

Meanwhile, Havlickova, who also reached the junior girls’ doubles final, beat her doubles partner Diana Shnaider of Russia, 6-4, 6-4, in the semifinals. She will face No. 10 seed Alexandra Eala of the Philippines, who eliminated No. 9 seed Victoria Mboko of Canada, 6-1, 7-6 (5).

Friday’s US Open results

Saturday’s US Open order of play

By the numbers

• Carlos Alcaraz is the youngest men’s Grand Slam semifinalist since Rafael Nadal at the 2005 French Open. He’s also the youngest men’ US Open semifinalist since Pete Sampras in 1990. Nadal and Sampras both won those tournaments.

Casper Ruud will qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals if he wins the US Open title on Sunday. The Norwegian, who reached the semifinals at the end-of-year event in 2021, would become the third singles player to qualify, joining Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz. Speaking of Neal, by reaching the final, Ruud ended the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s chances of returning to World No. 1 on Monday by beating Karen Khachanov to reach the title match.

“Quotable …”

“Tennis is a psychological game, as well as it is physical. Sometimes, I guess, we are trying to act like we have good posture, but on the inside we probably feel different. There is a bit of acting, as well, in sports. I don’t know how I’m able to do it.”

Casper Ruud, during his on-court interview after winning his semifinal over Karen Khachanov Friday afternoon.

“I gave everything I had left tonight. Too good Carlos, I am happy I got to share the big stage with you.”

Frances Tiafoe, during an on-court interview after losing his semifinal to Carlos Alcaraz Friday night.