US Open men's final predictions: First Grand Slam beckons for Alcaraz
A new star is set to be born as for one of Casper Ruud or Carlos Alcaraz, this will be a first Grand Slam success and there is an added incentive with the soon-to-be crowned US Open champion also catapulting themselves to world No1.
Both defending champion Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal fell victim in the fourth round in New York while Novak Djokovic was an absentee, leaving the younger brigade to fight it out for Grand Slam supremacy.
Ruud and Alcaraz are the two that have risen to the challenge and although it is not a major surprise given they are the fifth seed and third seed respectively, it does suggest a changing of the guard is starting to take place in the men's game.
At 23, Norwegian ace Ruud has experienced a Grand Slam final before as he finished runner-up to Nadal at the French Open in June, although this is a totally new experience for 19-year-old phenomenon Alcaraz.
Ruud no one-trick pony
Ruud has excelled on a clay court in the early part of his career, highlighted by his run to the French Open final as well as the fact eight of his nine career titles have come on the slower surface.
However, the Norwegian has shown in New York that he has more strings to his bow and his last two wins over Matteo Berrettini and Nick Kyrgios’s conqueror Karen Khachanov read particularly well.
The fifth seed may need more to get the better of Alcaraz, who beat him 7-5 6-4 in the final in Miami in April but he is here on merit and cannot be underestimated.
Having already been involved in a Grand Slam final ought to serve him well but his Spanish opponent looks fearless and completely unflattered by any situation he finds himself in.
Alcaraz is the real deal
Despite being only 19 years of age, Alcaraz has long been considered a future Grand Slam champion and now he has his chance to live up to that promise.
Even if he loses at Flushing Meadows there are going to be plenty more opportunities for the rising Spaniard to strike at the top table — but he does seem the most likely winner.
The Murcia man won his first three matches of the tournament in straight sets before showing his determination to come through epic five-set battles with Marin Cilic, Jannik Sinner and Frances Tiafoe.
Taking on the home crowd in his semi-final win over Tiafoe was particularly impressive and it was enough to suggest that he already has the mental strength required to be crowned a Major champion.
Alcaraz has lost only four of his 24 hard-court matches this year and that includes a straight-set success over Ruud on his way to claiming silverware in the final in Miami.
Ruud is unlikely to go down quite as easily in New York but it may be the same outcome with the Spaniard still taken to come out on top.
It is interesting that Alcaraz has come through five-set matches in the last three rounds against Cilic, Sinner and Tiafoe and another marathon match may be on the cards here.
Ruud, who has also dropped sets in four of his last five matches Stateside, can provide Alcaraz with a serious test.
However, it may ultimately be in vain with the teenager fancied to prevail 3-2 once more.