Rafael Nadal receives Casper Ruud threat as No 1 chances in trouble

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Rafael Nadal has received a warning as he waits anxiously to learn whether he will become the world No 1 again after the US Open. Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz will be able to end the tournament as the top-ranked male player depending on their results, and the Norwegian appears more than up for the challenge of earning the ranking in a threat to Nadal’s chances.

Five men had the opportunity to be the world No 1 at the conclusion of the US Open, with Nadal, Ruud and Alcaraz the last three in with a shot. But the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s fate now lies in the hands of his young successors following his shock fourth-round loss to Frances Tiafoe.

With both Ruud and Alcaraz through to the semi-finals on opposite sides of the draw, both men now need to make the final to become world No 1 for the first time in their careers. And if both of them reach Sunday’s championship match, it will be the title winner who walks away as the new top man in tennis.

Ahead of Friday’s semi-finals, Ruud’s father – retired pro Christian Ruud – has sent a threat to Nadal and Alcaraz as the 23-year-old remains on the hunt for his “ultimate goal” of reaching the world No 1 spot after playing some of the best hard-court tennis of his career in a 6-1 6-4 7-6(4) quarter-final win over Matteo Berrettini.

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“We are just trying to take one match at a time. It’s still far away, I think,” his dad, the former world No 39, said. “But of course it’s nice that it’s possible, and Casper has a little bit of motivation, because even when he was small, his ultimate goal was to be No 1 in the world. Yeah, the chances are still there, so we are happy about that and we just have to play one match at a time.”

The current world No 7 hit just two unforced errors up until 6-1 5-1 in his quarter-final match against former Wimbledon finalist Berrettini, and still closed out a straight-sets victory despite getting broken in the second set and finding himself 0-3 down in the third, with the Italian having a chance to serve for the set.

Casper Ruud said the quarter-final was “one of the best matches I have ever seen him play” and added: “So maybe it’s not his favourite, hard courts, but he’s been improving every match.” The 23-year-old reached his maiden Grand Slam final earlier this year at the French Open, on his preferred surface of the clay courts.

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And his father claimed that his run in Paris had helped him back it up with another strong tournament in New York, with the rest of the men through to the last four having never made it beyond the quarter-finals of a Major in the past. “Of course he came in French Open with some nerves because he really wanted to do well there and had a difficult opponent in the first round,” the elder Ruud said of his son.

“Then the goal was achieved a little bit, and then this US Open, he plays maybe with [a] little bit calmer shoulders because he already had one good Grand Slam result. In a way, he got that breakthrough in the Grand Slams, and hopefully, we can continue. He’s fit, he’s doing well, so he suits playing five-set matches.”

Ruud will face 27th seed Karen Khachanov in the first of the two men’s semi-finals on Friday, before Alcaraz takes on home hope Tiafoe in the second last four clash. If Ruud and Alcaraz both reach the final, it will mark the first time in Open Era history that two men will be battling it out to make their world No 1 debut in a Grand Slam final.

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