With no Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic as well as a vulnerable (and now, injured) Daniil Medvedev, the Miami Open offered a great opportunity for the best of the rest to establish themselves and take a rare or first Masters 1000 title. It was Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz who did so, both making their first final at this level. The Spaniard leads the head to head 1-0 with his Marbella win early last year giving an early glimpse of his undoubted potential.
Ruud’s reward for an impressive quarter final win over Alexander Zverev was a match against the surprise performer of the tournament – Francisco Cerundolo. It was a step too far for the No. 103 with Ruud several levels above in easing to a 6-4 6-1 victory. He was broken to begin the match but it was all one way for the Norwegian after that opening game. “I have had three tough loses in my previous Masters  semi-finals and I thought today was a good chance to reach my first final. I started a little shaky but I was able to pull through and raise my level when I really needed to.” he said post-match.
Alcaraz’s run to the final here is no surprise given his exploits in 2022. He is now 17-2 this year with both losses coming in deciding sets against top 10 players in Rafael Nadal and Matteo Berrettini. The Spaniard has few flaws in his game even at 18 and is rightly being seen as the next heir to the Big 4 although he will be hoping his successes come quicker than some of those previously tagged. He finished off a superb run to the final with his performance against defending champion Hubert Hurkacz, holding tough on serve and delivering at the key moments in the 7-6 7-6 victory. “At the beginning, I saw that I couldn’t return. I thought we were going to play a lot of tie-breaks… A little bit different with his serve, but it’s a great win for me.” the Spaniard said.
While the next milestone will come for both sooner rather than later, victory for either player will not move them any higher than their new career highs in the live rankings of 7 and 12 for Ruud and Alcaraz respectively. Expect a hard-hitting affair with both players happy to pummel away from the baseline for long sections of the match. Alcaraz will be battle tested after his route to the final so there is little doubt of his ability to hold his nerve against the bigger names.
Alcaraz’s serve may be a point of attack for Ruud, who will look to seize the iniative – especially on the second. This should be a fascinating affair if both bring their best but it is the 18 year-old seen as the likely winner by many, including the bookmakers who have him as a fairly comfortable favourite. “I’m going to approach the final like a first round, trying to mask the nerves. I’m going to enjoy it, it’s going to be a great final.” he said.
Prediction – Carlos Alcaraz in three sets