Alcaraz Triumphs at French Open, Defeats Zverev in Thrilling Final

Alcaraz Triumphs at French Open, Defeats Zverev in Thrilling Final

There was tossing and turning and the odd nightmare, but Carlos Alcaraz eventually turned his childhood dream into reality by winning the French Open.

The brilliant 21-year-old beat Alexander Zverev in five undulating and pulsating sets to take his place in the proud lineage of Spaniards to have won this title.

He is a US Open and Wimbledon champion, but this is the one he wanted the most. Alcaraz becomes the youngest man ever to win a Grand Slam on three different surfaces, while Zverev’s wait for a maiden major title continues.

This was the first Roland Garros final without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic since 2004. And if Nadal has made it look absurdly easy to win this tournament, these two at times made it look dreadfully hard.

Alcaraz’s form has been streaky throughout this tournament and he had two shocking spells in this match, going from 2-1 to 2-6 in the second set and from 5-2 to 5-7 in the third.

Carlos Alcaraz won the French Open for the first time as he overcame Alexander Zverev

Zverev was a set ahead at one stage but Alcaraz showed impressive spirit to bounce back

Zverev was a set ahead at one stage but Alcaraz showed impressive spirit to bounce back

After winning, Alcaraz collapsed onto the clay a la Rafael Nadal, who he idolised

After winning, Alcaraz collapsed onto the clay a la Rafael Nadal, who he idolised

Zverev stayed the course well and took full advantage of those Alcaraz dips in form but, for all his 6ft 6in frame and 140mph serve, it still feels as though the German’s game is built around his opponents missing, rather than grasping the nettle himself.

Alcaraz is the polar opposite and it felt just that the man who took the greater risks and played the more inventive, spectacular shots won this title. His 55 unforced errors show he was very far from perfect, but 52 winners – many of them breathtaking – comfortably outstripped Zverev’s 38.

Alcaraz made a horribly nervy start to his blockbuster semi-final against Jannik Sinner but looked far more settled here.

It was Zverev who came out cold, beginning with two double faults in a row and a swift change of racket – he seemed unhappy with the grip.

Alcaraz managed only two breaks of the Zverev serve in his four-set defeat in Australia this year; here he had two in the first five games.

Alcaraz was quite brilliant in the first set. Zverev is a player who loves rhythm and Alcaraz gave him none at all: topspin, slice, short, deep, wide, narrow – Zverev never got the same ball twice in a row. He was forced to constantly shift his court position, always unsure whether to retreat or push up.

Having taken the first set it felt like all Alcaraz had to do was continue to execute the gameplan. But, as he is still wont to do, he suffered a dip in form, appearing to drift into auto-pilot. Zverev settled into don’t-miss mode and took full advantage by breaking for 3-2.

When he ran down an Alcaraz half-volley and slid it cross court for a winner, it was the first time he had truly electrified the crowd. We had a match on our hands now.

Alcaraz endured some difficult moments but he was still able to prevail against Zverev

Alcaraz endured some difficult moments but he was still able to prevail against Zverev

Zverev managed to stay the course but he still seems to be reliant on his opponents missing

Zverev managed to stay the course but he still seems to be reliant on his opponents missing

Alcaraz shanked a few forehands and complained to the umpire that there was not enough clay on the court – the same reason Djokovic gave for his slip and knee injury on Monday.

Zverev upped the aggression, opening his shoulders on the forehand side and blasting a winner down the line that showed Alcaraz he could no longer play into that wing with impunity.

In the third set, it took Zverev until the sixth game to make an unforced error. But after that error Alcaraz came alive with some clutch returning and thrilling net play to break.

Alcaraz fended off three break points in the next game but Zverev came again in the next service game and broke with a trio of measured passing shots.

At 5-5, Alcaraz played a ragged game to be broken and suddenly from 2-5 down Zverev took the set 7-5.

It was difficult to keep up with these wild fluctuations in Alcaraz’s form, and at the start of the second set he broke with a passing shot that swerved past Zverev and back into court like an overtaking Formula One car.

There were two double faults from Zverev in his next service game and all of a sudden it was 4-0.

Zverev got one break back in the next game and then Alcaraz received a medical timeout for treatment on his thigh, where he already had some strapping. He wobbled, rather than surged, over the line from there and the trainer returned for another look at that thigh before the final set.

Alcaraz had to fight hard as he managed to secure the third Grand Slam of his career

Alcaraz had to fight hard as he managed to secure the third Grand Slam of his career

There was frustration for Zverev at the end of a match in which he had given so much

There was frustration for Zverev at the end of a match in which he had given so much

At 1-1 Zverev hit two ugly volleys, then a double fault to go 0-40 down then sent a backhand long. It was a shockingly lax way to concede a break in the fifth set of a Grand Slam final.

But Alcaraz returned his generosity in kind and we were back on level terms in a match no one seemed fully able to grasp.

Alcaraz in turn went 0-40 down but saved four break point to win an epic game with some brilliant shotmaking.

He came hunting for the title when his opponent served at 4-2, and broke with the help of a stunning one-handed backhand pass flicked past Zverev.

The double break insurance calmed any lingering nerves and Alcaraz served out. He collapsed on to the clay a la Nadal – the man he used to run home from school to watch winning titles here.

Comments

No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *