Casper Ruud doesn’t expect to match Erling Haaland’s popularity in his native Norway, even if he beats Carlos Alcaraz to win the US Open and become world number one.
The culmination of this extraordinary Grand Slam tournament will be a straight shootout for the first major trophy for both men and first place in the rankings.
Ruud is already the best player in his country’s history, having inherited a love of the sport from his father Christian, who was a top 50 player in the 1990s.
It’s a phenomenal time in Norwegian sporting history, with the small country’s athletes leading the world not only in its traditional winter sports, but also in athletics and triathlon, as well as tennis.
All have been trumped by Manchester City’s goal-maker Haaland so far, however, and Ruud said: “He’s had an incredible season so far. We all hope he continues. It’s a pleasure to watch him score goal after goal.
“He’s obviously the biggest star we have in Norway at the moment. He will likely remain so for many years to come.
“I’m just concentrating on my career. Of course I hope that I can win more tournaments in my career. I want to represent Norway well and put Norwegian tennis on the map a little bit more than it has in recent years.”
This was billed as the most open men’s Grand Slam tournament in two decades, and for the first time since the first US major in 1881, all four semifinalists were there for the first time.
It was also the youngest round of 16 at a Slam since Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were here in 2008 and the key takeaway from this fortnight will be that men’s tennis should be looking forward to the era to come, not fearful .
That the stakes are so high is fitting as Ruud describes it as an ‘ideal situation’.
“Of course there will be nerves and we will both feel that,” said the 23-year-old. “I hope it will be a good game. He hit me a couple of times and I’ll get my revenge.”
Ruud’s only titles so far have come at the lowest level of the ATP Tour and all but one have been on clay, but he has made great strides this season, not least reaching his maiden Grand Slam final at the French Open.
He was beaten well by Nadal but hopes the experience can help against Alcaraz, who will play in his first Slam final at the age of 19.
“(Nadal) obviously beat me hard,” said Ruud. “After the final I said, ‘If I ever reach one again, I hope it’s not Rafa on the other side of the pitch at Roland Garros’ because I think it’s an impossible task for any player. I’m glad it’s not Rafa on clay.
“I hope it prepared me a bit. At least I know a little bit what I’m in for when I step onto the pitch, see the trophy at the back of the pitch, see loads of celebs. I hope I can be better prepared for that on Sunday.”
Alcaraz’ run in New York will be remembered for a long time, whether he wins the title or not.
The teenager, who is bidding to become the youngest-ever world number one, has played three straight five-set games. After finishing the match of the tournament after 2am against both Marin Cilic and Jannik Sinner, he played another night session classic against Frances Tiafoe.
Alcaraz, who has spent nearly 20 hours on the pitch in six games, said: “I’m feeling great right now. A little bit tired. I’m just so, so happy. I thought of a young man 10 years ago who dreamed of this moment.
“It’s amazing to be able to fight for big things. For the first time in a Grand Slam final. I can see the number one, but at the same time it’s so far.
“I have yet to play one against a player who is playing incredibly. I will give everything I have. I’ll enjoy the moment and see what happens.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/casper-ruud-carlos-alcaraz-christian-us-open-erling-haaland-b2164231.html Casper Ruud – I can’t even compare Erling Haaland’s popularity to the US Open triumph