Carlos Alcaraz Reigns Supreme in Paris, Downs Zverev in Five-Set Thriller

Carlos Alcaraz French Open

Carlos Alcaraz reigns supreme in Paris. The 21-year-old Spaniard claimed his first French Open title on Sunday afternoon at Roland Garros, taking down No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2. It is the third slam title of Alcaraz’s young career (2022 US Open, 2023 Wimbledon) and makes him the youngest player to win a slam on all three surfaces.

This French Open final lived up to the hype and more. It was just the second Roland Garros final to go the distance in the last 25 years, giving fans around the world four hours and 19 minutes of high-level tennis.

The ebbs and flows in this battle were a microcosm of the sport. Its back-and-forth nature kept fans on the edge of their seats as pressure mounted and shifted with every point. Let’s get into the match breakdown and see how Alcaraz captured his maiden French Open title.

Early back-and-forth battle

Alcaraz and Zverev both showed early signs of nerves, trading breaks in the first two games of the match. However, it was the 21-year-old Spaniard who quickly found his rhythm. Alcaraz secured two more breaks in the first set, including in the ninth game, giving him the 6-3 first-set victory. The Spaniard entered this match on a 44-match Grand Slam winning streak when winning set No. 1.

No one expected the German to go down without a fight, and he quickly found his level in the second set. The set featured some grueling games, including a 10:18 first-game hold from Alcaraz. But it was clear that Zverev was knocking, and the door was about to bust down.

The German broke his counterpart in a relatively straightforward fashion in the fifth game. He added a second break during the next Alcaraz service game and served out the set at 6-2. Zverev knocked in 83 percent of his first serves in the set, which he knew had to be high if he wanted a chance to claim his first slam. He found his forehand and hit just four unforced errors compared to 14 from the Spaniard.

The all-important third set

Similarly to many five-set battles, the third set was where this match really took off. From the get-go, both players brought their A-level. Early in the set, Alcaraz could not put any pressure on the German’s serve. Zverev did not drop a point in the set’s first two service games, knocking in seven of eight first serves.

During the Spaniard’s service games, Alcaraz started to use his variety beautifully. He was moving Zverev all around the court, forcing the German to come up with creative shots to beat him. His unforced error count dropped as the 21-year-old seemed to immerse himself in the match in the third set.

On serve and up 3-2, Alcaraz captured his wonderboy level. He smashed two winners to break Zverev at love and take a firm grip on the third set. Despite facing three break points in the subsequent game, Alcaraz was able to consolidate the break for a 5-2 lead.

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Zverev changes the tide

Tennis, however, is a finicky game. With Alcaraz serving for the set at 5-3, Zverev forced the Spaniard to tighten up and pounced at his first break opportunity of the game. Zverev held at love to send the set to 5-5 and put the pressure back squarely on the young Spaniard’s shoulders.

Zverev kept the pressure on, breaking Alcaraz again at 5-5. The German was able to stave off a break point and serve out the third set, putting himself one set away from a maiden Grand Slam title.

The German’s confidence was brimming heading into set No. 4. He had won the last five games of the third set and 22 of the last 31 points. His serve was lending itself to a lot of free points, and when rallies did get started, both Zverev’s forehand and backhand were damaging the Spaniard.

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Alcaraz responds

Despite being only 21 years old, Carlos Alcaraz seemingly always responds to adversity. This was no different on Sunday at the French Open.

In the fourth, Alcaraz imposed his will, pushing Zverev around the court and forcing him to play extra balls to win a point. The Spaniard won the first four games of the set, dropping just five points in the process. Alcaraz served out the fourth set at 5-1, sending us to a decider three hours and 24 minutes into this French Open final.

The French Open decider

This was just the second French Open five-set final in the last 25 years.

Both players came into this match with terrific five-set match records. Alcaraz held an unthinkable 10-1 record in these encounters, and Zverev was 23-11 in five-setters, including a 10-1 mark at Roland Garros.

After trading relatively straightforward holds to begin the set, Zverev began to unwind in the third game. The German hit four unforced errors to give Alcaraz the game, including his sixth double fault of the match.

Zverev immediately battled back, taking a 40-0 lead in the next game as he hunted for the break back. At 15-40, Alcaraz hit a second serve that missed the line by two millimeters. However, the serve was called good and Zverev went on to lose the game. Tell me again, why are we not using Hawk-Eye at every professional event?

With Alcaraz serving at 3-2, Zverev was able to force another breakpoint. However, the Spaniard was able to save it with a clinical serve and volley. Alcaraz saved 17 of 23 breakpoints in the match, a stat that ultimately decided this French Open final.

Alcaraz once again raised his level in the seventh game of the fifth set. The Spaniard broke Zverev at love via three winners, including an unbelievable backhand slice winner, to give himself a 5-2 double-break lead in the final set.

The 21-year-old held his nerve at 5-2, serving out his maiden French Open title in what can be seen as a Spanish tennis passing of the torch as Alcaraz avenges Rafael Nadal’s first-round loss in what was likely his last Roland Garros appearance.

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What this means for Alcaraz

With the French Open title, Carlos Alcaraz has claimed his third Grand Slam title and has once again proven he has the mental and physical fortitude to outlast the best players in the world.

His ability to problem solve at such a young age is a joy to watch. Much credit should be given to his coach, 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, for his in-match coaching tactics. These two are an unstoppable duo that will be at the forefront of the tennis world for years to come.

With the title, Alcaraz becomes …

  • The youngest player to ever win three men’s singles Grand Slams on three different surfaces
  • The second player under 22 years old to win Roland Garros this decade
  • The seventh player to ever win his first three Grand Slam men’s singles finals
  • The fifth active player with three+ men’s singles majors

Alcaraz will leave Paris as the No. 2 ranked player in the world, just over 900 ranking points behind his good friend Jannik Sinner. He will look to defend his title at the All England Lawn Club next month. Given his current form and ability to raise his level in the biggest moments, there is no reason to suggest Alcaraz will not be the favorite heading into the third slam of the season.

Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane – USA TODAY Sports


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