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A new era of Men’s tennis is here and three have risen – Alcaraz, Sinner and Ruud

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History was scripted at the Arthur Ashe stadium in New York when the 19-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz defeated Norway’s Casper Rudd 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 to clinch his first grand slam major title and also the world no. 1 ranking at the US Open finals. Alcaraz has become only the second player to have achieved the coveted world no. 1 ranking on the ATP tour, which has been dominated by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic for over a decade and a half now.

This seems to be the dawn of a new era in Men’s tennis – an era that will have Alcaraz at the helm of it, along with Italy’s Jannik Sinner. The US Open quarter-finals between the two youngsters will go down as one of the most significant battles in US Open history. The two locked horns for a mammoth 5 hours and 15 minutes on Arther Ashe, with Alcaraz taking the match 6-3 6-7 (7) 6-7 (0) 7-5 6-3 after saving a match point in the fourth set, and recovering a break in the fifth. The head-to-head between the two is now leveled at 2-2, with Alcaraz claiming his first victory over Sinner this season after losing to him in the fourth round of Wimbledon and the Umag finals.

The two have different approaches to their game. Alcaraz’s game is laced with flamboyance and Nadalesque athleticism featuring crazy tweeners, drop shots, and agility. Sinner’s game is less flamboyant but equally solid, displaying great flexibility and sliding on the court like a skater; he can reach almost every ball that comes his way. No wonder Djokovic said this about Sinner in this year’s Wimbledon: “I kind of see a little bit of myself in his game, as well, from back of the court, playing flat backhands, constantly staying on the back of the line, trying to put pressure on opponents.”

Also read: Even as Federer signalled he was tennis’ future, he seemed a creature from its pristine past

Alcaraz has also proved that he has the mental tenacity to step up when the going gets tough and shift the momentum his way. He did this throughout the US Open, saving match points and break points at the most critical stages of the tournament. On his path to victory in Madrid, he defeated Nadal, Djokovic, and Zverev, who were ranked 3rd, 1st, and 2nd respectively in the world at that point. It is a testament to his mental strength, something that has sadly been missing among top senior players like Zverev, Tsitsipas, Berrettini, and Kyrgios – who, despite having been in the circuit for some time now, have not been able to make their mark in grand slam major tournaments.

Sometimes we tend to brush aside the achievements of the runners-up particularly when the winner has so many accolades like Alcaraz. That’s why it is also important to understand the magnitude of Casper Ruud’s achievements this season and realise that he is going to be a force to reckon with in the years to come.

Often disregarded as merely a clay-courter, Ruud has proven that he has what it takes to go all the way on hard courts as well. While he has yet to win a major or master’s 1000 title, his rise in the past couple of years and the ascend to world no. 2 ranking attests to his talent.

Federer has now retired. Nadal, who is preparing to have a baby, is unsure about his schedule in the future. With Djokovic potentially remaining as the only active player of the big 3, the rise of new stars in Alcaraz, Sinner and Ruud is what the sport of men’s tennis so desperately needed.

Furqaan Ahmed Jafri is a student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai). Views are personal.

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