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Preview: US Open: Casper Ruud vs. Carlos Alcaraz - prediction, head to head, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Sunday's US Open final between Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz, including prediction, head-to-head record and their tournament so far.

US Open glory and top spot in the ATP rankings is on the line at the Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday evening, as Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz face off in the men's singles final.

The Spanish third seed is competing in his maiden Grand Slam final, while Ruud enters the contest seeking to go one better than he did at this year's French Open.

Match preview

Casper Ruud celebrates reaching the US Open final on September 9, 2022© Reuters

Having already defeated one of the game's big-serving beasts in Matteo Berrettini, a showdown with the powerful 6ft 6in Karen Khachanov would not have fazed Casper Ruud too much, and the Scandinavian starlet got the job done in four sets in that semi-final.

Ruud prevailed 7-6[5] 6-2 5-7 6-2 as he aims to win his first Grand Slam title and surge to the summit of the ATP rankings, only a few months on from falling to Rafael Nadal's superiority in the final at Roland Garros.

The fifth seed's ever-effective cross-court forehand caused Khachanov all sorts of problems throughout their semi-final, and he did not let a minor third-set blip affect him, recovering with aplomb to win five games on the bounce in the fourth and final set.

Posting respective success rates of 87% on net approaches and 83% on his first serves also demonstrates Ruud's proficiency in all areas of the court, although he admitted that nerves got the better of him in the early stages, with four breaks coming in the opening set.

A spot in the ATP Finals will also await the 23-year-old if he gets his hands on the prestigious honour this weekend - where he would join Nadal and his upcoming opponent Alcaraz - but the man four years his junior is not one to be taken lightly.

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates winning his US Open semi-final on September 9, 2022© Reuters

Gleaning a slice of revenge for his compatriot Nadal, 19-year-old Alcaraz ended Frances Tiafoe's hopes of clinching a major title on his home turf with a gruelling five-set victory over the American on Friday night.

Despite playing out the US Open's second-longest match in history during his quarter-final success over Jannik Sinner, Alcaraz seemed as fresh as ever as he prevailed 6-7[6], 6-3, 6-1, 6-7[5], 6-3 after a four-hour and 19-minute contest.

Becoming only the second male teenager to reach the final of the US Open in the Open Era - following in Pete Sampras's footsteps - the third seed has been taken to five sets in each of his last three US Open matches, but a hefty 78 winners helped him get over the line against Tiafoe.

Over the past year, only Reilly Opelka has managed to win more points on his second serve on the ATP Tour than Alcaraz, and even then the Spaniard is marginally behind the American's 56.4% with 56.3% - Nadal is equally close behind him with 56.2%.

The Spaniard also managed to hold his nerve incredibly well when failing to take two break point opportunities to close out the match against Tiafoe - he made no mistake on the third - and whichever man wins their inaugural Grand Slam honour this weekend can proudly claim to be on top of the world.

Tournament so far

Casper Ruud:

First round: vs. Kyle Edmund 6-3 7-5 6-2
Second round: vs. Tim van Rijthoven 6-7[4] 6-4 6-4 6-4
Third round: vs. Tommy Paul 7-6[3] 6-7[5] 7-6[2] 5-7 6-0
Round of 16: Corentin Moutet 6-1 6-2 6-7[4] 6-2
Quarter-final: vs. Matteo Berrettini 6-1 6-4 7-6[4]
Semi-final: vs. Karen Khachanov 7-6[5] 6-2 5-7 6-2

Carlos Alcaraz:

First round: vs. Sebastian Baez 7-5 7-5 2-0 (Retired)
Second round: vs. Federico Coria 6-2 6-1 7-5
Third round: vs. Jenson Brooksby 6-3 6-3 6-3
Round of 16: vs. Marin Cilic 6-4 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-3
Quarter-final: vs. Jannik Sinner 6-3 6-7[7] 6-7[0] 7-5 6-3
Semi-final: vs. Frances Tiafoe 6-7[6], 6-3, 6-1, 6-7[5], 6-3

Head To Head

Andalucia Open (2021) - Quarter-final: Alcaraz def. Ruud 6-2 6-4
Miami Open (2022) - Final: Alcaraz def. Ruud 7-5 6-4

Alcaraz is two for two in previous meetings with Ruud on the ATP Tour, firstly defeating the Norwegian in straight sets 6-2 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the 2021 Andalucia Open in Marbella.

The Spaniard entered that tournament as a wildcard but swiftly lost to Jaume Munar in the semi-finals following his win over Ruud, and the pair would renew hostilities in the 2022 Miami Open final.

History repeated itself for the duo, as Alcaraz once again won in straight sets 7-5 6-4 to get his hands on the Masters 1000 title back in April - becoming the tournament's youngest-ever winner - and a total of 17 break points were brought up in that match; Alcaraz took four of nine while Ruud broke twice in eight attempts.

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We say: Alcaraz in four sets

Having already defeated Ruud in a Masters 1000 final - doing so in straight sets to boot - many will be backing Alcaraz to add a Grand Slam title to his ever-growing cabinet, especially with the teenager demonstrating few signs of fatigue despite his lengthy five-set battles.

Ruud can certainly trouble the teenager if he works his forehand well, but Alcaraz has only improved his all-round game since his recent two wins over the Norwegian, and we have faith in the third seed to see out a four-set win and end the week as world number one with a first-ever major title.
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Frances Tiafoe in action at the US Open on September 7, 2022
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