Paris | Alcaraz wins French to continue Spanish tradition

His boyhood dream was to win the French Open and follow in the footsteps of his compatriots, Rafa Nadal, Carlos Moya, Juan-Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Costa and get his name engraved on the French Open trophy. In fact, a Spaniard has now won a total of 21 French Opens in the Open Era.

I was positive all the time, I was strong mentally and I didn’t get down at any point. To me, I’m proud to know that I’m not making the same mistakes twice Carlos Alcaraz

“I really want to put my name on that list, as well” he said prior to his meeting with fellow finalist Alexander Zverev and following a gruelling four-hour, 19-minute, 6-3 2-6 5-7 6-1 6-2 battle, he achieved that ambition — and much more.

At 21 he now holds three Grand Slam titles and is the youngest player to have won them on three different surfaces and only the seventh to have done that in the sport’s history. In addition he is on a possible career Grand Slam if he can add the Australian Open to his fast-rising tally of titles.

Novak Djokovic is renown for his record-breaking career which looks unsurmountable but it also now feels like Alcaraz could well put many of the Serbian’s records under pressure if he can maintain his current level of play.

He knows he has a long way to go but already looks like a mature player with all the weapons he needs, including variety, patience and power plus a brain which can work out problems on court.

“It was a very tough match, but I’m very happy to have come through it and to have learned from the situations I’ve faced so far,” Alcaraz said following his emotional win. “They’re moments (during the championships) in which I didn’t do well mentally and they took their toll… Today, I changed that. I was positive all the time, I was strong mentally and I didn’t get down at any point. To me, I’m proud to know that I’m not making the same mistakes twice.”

And remembering his schooldays, added: “Since I was a little kid finishing school, running, just to put the TV on to watch this tournament and now, I’m lifting the trophy in front of all of you.

“It’s been unbelievable the support I receive. I feel like home!”

Alcaraz’s greater variety of shot and athleticism, always made him the favourite and it wasn’t surprising to see him break Zverev in the first game, though German nerves – two double-faults – no doubt contributed to that break.

Carlos Alcaraz is congratulated by Alexander Zverev

(Photo by Tim Goode/Getty Images)

Nerves were also evident in the next game as Alcaraz failed to back that break up – however, it was the Spaniard who gained control a few games later when he broke at 2-all and doubled his advantage to seal the opening set after 42-minutes.

In the second, the Zverev serve started to hit its mark to lift his confidence and this time it was the German who made the breakthrough at 2-all as he put together a run of five consecutive games to level the match.

The pendulum was swinging Zverev’s way despite dropping his serve to love in the third to trail 2-5, a break he recovered three games later as he strung another good run of five consecutive games and edge ahead on his second set-point, for the first time and lead 2-sets to one. That reversal of fortune not only stunned the packed Court Philippe Chatrier crowd but left Alcaraz slightly bemused at seeing his lead slip away, despite all his efforts in the last few games.

Whether he was starting to feel the cramps which affected him during his five-hour semi-final slug with Jannik Sinner and proved his downfall when playing Djokovic in last year’s semis, no one knows.

However, he responded to losing the third by immediately breaking Zverev twice to storm into a 4-0 lead and while he dropped his serve in the fifth game, he made amends in the next after receiving some treatment to his left thigh.

He then saved three break points before levelling the match and forcing a nail-biting, winner-take-all decider which he was to dominate, despite the intense pressure which Zverev applied!

There was one occasion in that set when umpire Renaud Lichtenstein who despite inspecting the mark, called it in favour of Alcaraz ignoring Zverev’s pleas to the contrary. Hawkeye confirmed Zverev’s point and, had he been successful in his appeal, he would have broken back.

Fortune though didn’t favour the German playing his second Grand Slam final as Alcaraz went on to convert his match point with a crushing, powerful forehand which Zverev was unable to control in reply.

Speaking after his victory Alcaraz, the first player to successfully complete two consecutive five-set matches at Roland Garros semi and final stages, referred to the injury which nearly prevented him playing at this year’s major clay court championship.

“It’s been incredible work the last month. We were struggling a lot with the injury,” Alcaraz said. “Coming back to Madrid, I didn’t feel well and then the next weeks with a lot of doubts coming here, not practicing too many hours on the court.

“I’m really grateful to have the team that I have. I know that everyone in my team is giving their heart to make me improve as a player and as a person so I’m really grateful, and I call you a team but it’s a family.”

Zverev himself was quick to praise the youngster on his achievement.

“Third Grand Slam, 21 years old — it’s incredible,” Zverev said of the champion. “You won three different ones. It’s an amazing career already. You’re already a Hall of Famer and you’ve already achieved so much.

“To my team, thanks for the last two weeks and the long journey we’ve had since the injury on this court. We were close today but not enough. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to hold this trophy together.”

Zverev finished with 8 aces and 6 double-faults. He also converted 6 break chances from 23 opportunities and struck 38 winners against 41 unforced errors.

In contrast Alcaraz struck 52 winners to 56 unforced errors and converted 9 of the 16 chances he had.

“He played fantastic,” Zverev added. “He played better than me in the fourth and fifth set. It’s how it is.

“I felt like this Grand Slam final I did everything I could. At the US Open (final) I kind of gave it away myself. It’s a bit different (this time).

“I lost focus, and on my serve I didn’t get the power from my legs anymore, which is weird,” he said on losing that 2-1 set lead. “Because normally, I do not get tired. I don’t cramp, I don’t get tired.

“But again, against Carlos it’s a different intensity, so maybe that was the case a bit. Yeah, maybe I have to look at my preparation. Maybe I have to look at how I do things on a physical base as well.

“Of course, look, I felt from the tennis level I was playing decent, and he was playing decent for three sets. Then I dropped a lot.”

Zverev had earlier in the year defeated Alcaraz at the Australian Open and two years ago, at Roland Garros.

Those defeats have certainly been avenged as Alcaraz continues his journey to become one of the super stars of the sport.

Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev pose with their respective trophies

Photo by Mateo Villalba/Getty Images)



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