Spanish tennis ace Carlos Alcaraz made history Sunday in Flushing Meadows in Queens, N.Y., with his four-set victory over Casper Ruud to win the 2022 U.S. Open. The title also pushed his world ranking to No. 1, and at 19 years and four months old, Alcaraz becomes the youngest player ever to rise to the top spot.
Australian Lleyton Hewitt previously held that mark, achieving the No. 1 rank in November of 2001, when he was 16 months older than Alcaraz is now.
The winner of this year’s final was guaranteed the No. 1 ranking, with the runner-up assured of being ranked second. The Open win also came with $2.6 million in prize money, pushing Alcaraz’s 2022 on-court earnings to $7.4 million—$700,000 ahead of second-place Rafael Nadal. In addition, the win and top ranking will trigger bonuses worth seven figures from his sponsors, which include Nike, Babolat, Rolex and BMW.
Pete Sampras is the only younger men’s winner of the U.S. Open. In 1990, he topped Andre Agassi, also at 19 years old, but he was three months younger than Alcaraz at the time.
“This is something that I dreamed of since I was a kid,” Alcaraz said in his on-court post-match interview. “It’s something I worked really, really hard [for]. It’s tough to talk right now. A lot of emotions.”
Alcaraz has soared up the tennis rankings this year; after being ranked No. 32 in January, he was fourth entering the U.S. Open. He has won five tournaments in 2022, including Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Miami. People around the sport have been buzzing about his on-court ability and chance to be tennis’ next big marketing star, as the careers of Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Nadal wind down.
The record-breaking New York crowds heavily backed Alcaraz during his matches, which included three straight five-setters leading into the final. He was serenaded with chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole! Carlos!” at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The two-week tournament posted its best attendance ever, with 776,120 fans, bettering the previous record of 737, 872 set in 2019. Arthur Ashe Stadium sold out its 23,859 seats for every session, the first time that’s happened in the 25-year-old venue’s history. Those fans got their money’s worth with a swan-song run from Serena Williams in the first week and the emergence of Alcaraz in the second.
“He’s one of these few rare talents that comes up every now and then in sports. That’s what it seems like,” Ruud said after the match on Sunday.
Alcaraz fell just outside of the top 10 in Sportico’s look at the top-earning male and female tennis players, but the earnings cutoff was in May, which means the teenager will jump into the rankings next year.
The newest U.S. Open champion is most often compared to fellow Spaniard Nadal, who was also 19 when he captured his first major title at the 2005 French Open.
"I think [Alcaraz] is unstoppable in terms of his career," Nadal said in a press conference in March. "He has all the ingredients. He has the passion. He's humble enough to work hard. He’s a good guy. He [reminds] me [of] a lot of things when I was a 17- or 18-years-old kid."