Tennis-Alcaraz enters all-surface elite with French Open triumph

  • Tennis
  • Monday, 10 Jun 2024

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 9, 2024 Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates after winning the men's singles final against Germany's Alexander Zverev REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) -Carlos Alcaraz made a grand entrance into the tennis history books as he claimed his maiden French Open title to become the youngest man to capture Grand Slams on all three surfaces with a see-saw five-set victory over German Alexander Zverev on Sunday.

The 6-3 2-6 5-7 6-1 6-2 win may not have been a classic, but the Spaniard showed that he belonged among the elite as he added a third Grand Slam crown to his impressive trophy cabinet that already has the 2022 U.S. Open and 2023 Wimbledon titles.

Alcaraz became the seventh man to win a major on hard, grass and clay courts, a feat that eluded some of the sport's greats, including American Pete Sampras, who boasts 14 major titles, but never won at Roland Garros.

At 21 years old, Alcaraz has played in three Grand Slam finals and won them all, while for comparison, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were in their late 20s before they mastered the sport's slowest surface.

"Since I was little kid, I was running from school to put on the TV to watch this tournament. Now I am lifting the trophy in front of all of you," said Alcaraz, who was described by Zverev as a "Hall of Famer" in his speech.

Sunday's defeat prolonged Zverev's frustration at Grand Slams, with the German still chasing a first title despite reaching the last four eight times.

"I'll be back next year," Zverev promised.

In the first men's Roland Garros final not featuring any member of the Big Three - Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Federer - in two decades, Alcaraz and Zverev failed to impress, their lack of consistency making for a disappointing display.

Alcaraz often looked like he had got the upper hand, only to let it slip several times, but he ultimately rose to the occasion against an increasingly frustrated Zverev, who entered the final on the back of a 12-match winning streak on clay.

The fourth seed has now lost both his Grand Slam finals, after losing the U.S. Open decider four years ago when he was two points away from victory against Dominic Thiem.

Alcaraz, who has suffered with bouts of nerves at Roland Garros, where his compatriot Nadal won a record 14 titles, kept his composure despite some blips.

On a sun-kissed court Philippe Chatrier, Alcaraz slapped a forehand winner down the line to snatch the early break, only for Zverev, who beat an ageing Nadal in the first round, to level for 1-1.


Alcaraz broke to love then held to move 4-2 ahead before Zverev staved off a break point, but the Spaniard was a cut above and he bagged the set on his opponent's serve with a crosscourt forehand winner.

Alcaraz needed more than 10 minutes to win the first game of the second set after six deuces.

The 21-year-old's unforced error rate spiked and Zverev broke for 3-2 and, having put his frustration behind him, won three games in a row to level the contest.

Alcaraz broke in the third set but remained inconsistent and serving for the set, the Spaniard made yet another string of errors that allowed Zverev back in the game.

The German seized the opportunity to break twice to go 6-5 up and serve it out to take the lead in the contest.

In a see-saw encounter, Alcaraz took the early advantage in the fourth set, breaking for a 2-0 lead with an eye-catching passing shot and then again for 4-0 with a splendid drop shot.

Yet his level dropped again right after, allowing Zverev to pull a break back before Alcaraz called the trainer on to have his left thigh massaged.

The Spaniard managed to wrap up the set to force a decider and a woeful third game by Zverev gave him the early break.


Alcaraz raised his level to save four break points in the next game and go 3-1 up but not before a controversial moment where he sent down a second serve that was called out, only to be overruled by the umpire after checks.

"There was some unlucky moments. I heard that at 2-1 the second serve was out. From the Hawk Eye data I saw that. I break back there, I have break chances and then in the next service game, a fifth set can go the other way," Zverev said.

"There's a difference whether you're down 3-1 in the fifth set or you're back to two-all.

"It's frustrating in the end, but it is what it is. Umpires make mistakes. They're also human and that's okay. But of course in a situation like that, you wish there wouldn't be mistakes."

Zverev, who was bidding to become the first German man to win a singles Grand Slam since Boris Becker in 1996, saw his hopes slip away on the biggest stage yet again.

Alcaraz broke once more before serving it out and clinching the title on his first match point.

"When you're playing a fifth set you have to give everything and you have to give your heart. In those moments, it's where the top players give their best tennis," Alcaraz said.

"I wanted to be one of the best players in the world, so I have to give extra in those moments, I have to show the opponent that I'm fresh, like we're playing the first game of the match."

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar; Editing by Toby Davis)

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