Carlos Alcaraz is one win away from creating Miami Open history after defeating defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets to book a final date on Sunday with Norway’s Casper Ruud.
The 18-year-old Spanish sensation brought the crowd at Hard Rock Stadium to their feet for the second night in succession following his dramatic quarter-final win over Miomir Kecmanovic on Thursday night as he saw off 10th-ranked Hurkacz of Poland 7-6(5), 7-6(2) to reach his first ATP Masters final.
If he triumphs this weekend, Alcaraz, who made the last four in Indian Wells earlier this month, will become the youngest champion in the tournament’s 37-year history.
Only two men have won titles at this level at a younger age — Michael Chang (1990, Toronto) and Rafael Nadal (2005, Monte Carlo) were both 18 on their first triumphs.
Alcaraz turns 19 next month.
Hurkacz, who has the doubles final on Saturday to help soften the blow of this painful defeat, fought until the end, but the quality of Alcaraz’s groundstrokes and movement was ultimately the difference.
Hurkacz served superbly to force a second set tie-break as the slow conditions suited both players but especially Alcaraz, who learned his trade on Spanish clay courts like his world famous compatriot and boyhood idol, Nadal.
On this evidence, Ruud will have his work cut out to stop the dynamic World No 16 in his tracks.
“He has played well here and was the defending champion but I played a really good game from my side,” said a delighted Alcaraz during a courtside interview after completing the win in just over two hours.
“This will be my first big final on a hard court but I have confidence and I am going to enjoy it.”
World No 8 Ruud, meanwhile, is the first Norwegian to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final and surely one of the only top men’s tennis players to have an Instagram account devoted solely to his golfing skills.
Ruud’s clash with the 2021 ATP Next Gen champion will be the biggest match of his career.
Dealing with pressure situations, though, is par for the course, especially when you have played 18 holes with 21-time Grand Slam champion Nadal – a keen golfer.
“I enjoy watching both sports and I try to watch a lot of golf especially here in the States,” Ruud told AFP.
“I’ve played Rafa a couple of times over the last two years. He’s a very good golfer. He beat me and is a very tough competitor.
“Honestly, it was a bit tough when we played because he doesn’t say much because he’s so focused. Normally you’re laughing a little bit and joking around, but with him it’s no joke.”
Ruud’s father, Christian, was Norway’s most successful player until he was surpassed by Casper, reaching 39th in the world.
His first Masters 1000 final comes after three semi-final defeats at the level.
He overpowered Francisco Cerundolo, making his first appearance at the elite Masters level, 6-4, 6-1.
Cerundolo, cheered on by an enthusiastic group of Argentina fans in the stands at Hard Rock Stadium, was outserved by Ruud in the first set and a break to make it 3-1 in the second, signalling the beginning of the end for the world number 103.
“I didn’t expect that if I ever made a Masters 1000 final, it would be here in Miami but I’ll take it,” said Ruud, who sealed the win with an ace.
For Cerundolo, defeat hurt but the progress made by the 23 year-old in south Florida is undeniable.
“I’m so proud of what I have done,” he said. “It’s been amazing.”