Carlos Alcaraz wins maiden Roland-Garros title with enthralling victory over Zverev

The Spaniard overcame Alexander Zverev in five captivating sets to clinch his first Roland-Garros title

Zverev and Alcaraz after 2024 Roland-Garros final © Glenn Gervot / Panoramic Carlos Alcaraz wins Roland-Garros 2024 © Thibault Camus/AP/SIPA
Roland Garros •Final • completed
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Carlos Alcaraz defeated Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 to win his maiden Roland-Garros title in a captivating final on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The Spaniard fought back from two-sets-to-one down to lift ‘La Coupe des Mousquetaires’ for the first time in his career. In doing so, he becomes the first player in the Open era to win his first three Grand Slam finals across three different surfaces.

It also means that, at just 21 years of age, Alcaraz is already three quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam. He will also return to No 2 in the world when the new rankings are released on Monday.

This title triumph is even more impressive given the troubled lead-up to the tournament that Alcaraz endured, with a right forearm injury forcing him to miss Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, casting doubt on his form and fitness heading into Paris.

For Zverev, this defeat will be a bitterly difficult pill to swallow as he loses his second Grand Slam final in as many appearances, having also fallen to Dominic Thiem in the final of the 2020 US Open.

It was an enthralling contest, defined by swaying shifts of momentum as each player took turns to surge through condensed periods of dominance, during which both displayed some of their breathtaking best tennis.

In the first Roland-Garros final since 2004 not to include any of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, the weight of history led to a nervous start from both players.

nervous start quickly gives way to superb contest

The German opened proceedings with two double-faults in succession en route to losing serve in the first game of the match, before Alcaraz threw in a loose service game of his own as Zverev broke straight back in a tight and tense opening few exchanges.

The early rust was ended with a confident hold in game three from Zverev, with the young Spaniard responding in kind in the following game. Incredible sliding defence from Alcaraz then forced a second break of his opponent’s serve – this time to love – and he consolidated with a comfortable hold to move 4-2 up.

The rest of the set went on serve, with Zverev doing well to hold serve from 15-40 down in the seventh game, until the ninth and final game where Alcaraz earned a third break of serve to take the opening stanza on his first set point after 43 minutes.

The Spaniard looked comfortable against Zverev’s usually potent service weaponry, attacking the German’s second serve particularly well and exposing weakness in what is usually a great strength for his opponent.

However, the complexion of the match changed with the start of a new set.

While Alcaraz had been defending his own serve excellently, saving three break points in a lengthy opening game at the start of the second set, he also began leaking unforced errors. Those hurt him in the fifth game as Zverev finally made another breakthrough on the Spaniard’s serve following a flurry of mistakes from his opponent.

This formed part of a wider momentum shift as the German was also beginning to find the mark with his first serve, effectively blending power with accuracy to remedy those first-set frailties in his service games, while striking the ball brilliantly from the baseline.

Zverev moved a double-break up in the seventh game, with the help of a double-fault from Alcaraz on break point as the world No 4’s pressure intensified. At 5-2 up, the German then confidently served out the second set with a hold to love to complete a run of five straight games.

After an hour and 35 minutes, the final was perfectly poised at one set apiece.

It was now Alcaraz’s turn to respond – and respond he did.

zverev clinches momentum-swinging third set before Alcaraz surges into higher gears

After coming through immense pressure from Zverev in his own service games, the young Spaniard superbly turned the tables on his opponent to end a run of 14 straight points on serve for Zverev, breaking the German to love in the sixth game of the set.

Alcaraz then fended off three break points in a pivotal seventh game, eventually holding to move 5-2 up. A relatively routine hold for Zverev put the onus back on his opponent to serve out the set.

But there was another huge twist in the tale, as Zverev broke Alcaraz in that ninth game, sending a raking backhand cross-court winner out of the Spaniard’s diving reach to ensure an extension of a pulsating third stanza. Another break for the German between a pair of holds saw Zverev steal the set from Alcaraz’s fingertips, clinching a nail-biting 12th game with his second set point as the Spaniard could not capitalise on a break point opportunity.

With the start of the fourth set, however, also came yet another huge swing in momentum as Alcaraz sprinted into a 4-0, double-break lead with stunning all-court tennis to leave Zverev rattled. Despite a brief respite as Zverev gained one break back in the fifth game, it was one-way traffic throughout the fourth stanza, as Alcaraz broke for a third time in the set before serving out a comprehensive 6-1 victory.

The result was that 2024’s Roland-Garros would see a one-set shoot-out to determine the outcome of the men’s singles.

It was the Spaniard who made the first move in the deciding set, moving a break up in the third game courtesy of a loose service game full of errors – including an untimely double-fault – from Zverev, as both players were visibly feeling the weight and tension of the occasion.

Alcaraz faced an almighty battle in a mammoth fourth game to consolidate, saving four break points before sealing the 3-1 lead with a typically sumptuous drop-shot to leave Zverev stranded. This was the case again in the sixth game, with the Spaniard again being forced to dig deep to keep an advancing Zverev at bay.

Alcaraz lifted his level extraordinarily just as it mattered most, pulling out shots worthy of the year’s best highlights reel as he refused to let his opponent back into the contest at the death.

He then broke again in the seventh game before serving out one of the biggest wins of his young career to win the Roland-Garros title.

has the grand slam door closed for zverev?

Zverev could not have played much better. He is arguably playing the best tennis of his career, but it still wasn’t enough against Alcaraz today.

When he beat the Spaniard in the quarter-finals of this tournament two years ago, Zverev predicted that Alcaraz would win the title many times, adding that he hoped he could clinch one before the prodigious young talent took over.

Sadly for Zverev, that time may have already come and effectively closed the door on his best chances of Grand Slam glory.

At 21 years old Alcaraz is only going to get better, but the German is likely hitting the peak of his powers already. With all this in mind, Zverev showed great composure to speak with grace and magnanimity in defeat.

“First of all congratulations Carlos,” he said in his runner-up speech.

“Third grand slam at 21. It’s incredible. You’ve won three different ones. It’s an amazing career already. You’re already a hall-of-famer. Incredible player. Not the last time you’re going to win this.”

Alcaraz was similarly humble in victory, paying tribute to his opponent with reference to the extraordinary journey the German has been on since his horrific ankle injury in the 2022 semi-finals on this very same court.

“I know everything you’ve been through the last few years with the injury on this court. The work you put today to be here in the final has been an unbelievable journey,” Alcaraz said as he took to the microphone for his victory speech.

“I’m pretty sure you’re going to have the chance to win this tournament very soon. Keep going and congratulations.

“To my team, it’s been incredible work the last month. We were struggling a lot with the injury. Coming back to Madrid I didn’t feel well the next weeks, we had a lot of doubts.

“Coming here without practising too many hours on the court, I’m really grateful to have the team I have. The people I have around me. I know everyone in my team is giving their heart just to make me improve as a player and as a person, to grow up.

“I’m really grateful. I call you a team. But it’s a family.”

carlos alcaraz – a talent for the ages

When Alcaraz first burst onto the stage in a blaze of drop-shotting, sublime-hitting glory, there were few doubts he was destined for greatness.

Even as the weight of filling the post-Big Three era hung heavy in people’s hopes for tennis’ brightest young rising star, Alcaraz rose to the challenge and exceeded those lofty expectations with a brand of tennis no one has quite seen before – and he did it all with a disarming smile on his face.

But there were few – if any – who thought Alcaraz would achieve quite what he has done in the past two years, even though his potential was already obvious.

After a quarter-final exit to today’s same opponent in the last eight of Roland-Garros 2022, Alcaraz returned two years later with two Grand Slam titles already under his belt and duly rose to the challenge of winning his third.

He continues the proud Spanish heritage that exists in this competition, as be solidifies his position as the country’s most exciting talent since Nadal himself.

It is often difficult to find words or sentences sufficient to describe just the level of jaw-dropping excellence that Carlitos Alcaraz achieves.

So, after his third Grand Slam title in two years, perhaps only two simple words can and will suffice.

Bravo, Carlos.

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