Alcaraz enters all-surface elite with French Open triumph

Carlos Alcaraz made a magnificent entry into the annals of tennis history by securing his inaugural French Open championship.

In doing so, he became the youngest male player to achieve Grand Slam victories on all three surfaces. The match against German Alexander Zverev was a rollercoaster affair, culminating in a hard-fought five-set triumph on Sunday. Although the 6-3 2-6 5-7 6-1 6-2 win may not be considered a timeless classic, it unquestionably showcased Alcaraz’s rightful place among the sport’s elite. This latest triumph adds to his already impressive collection of titles, which includes the 2022 U.S. Open and the 2023 Wimbledon championships.

Alcaraz made history by becoming the seventh man to achieve victory in a major tournament on hard, grass, and clay courts. This remarkable accomplishment eluded even some of the greatest players in the sport, such as Pete Sampras, who holds an impressive 14 major titles but never managed to win at Roland Garros.

Alcaraz, at the young age of 21, has already competed in three Grand Slam finals and emerged victorious in all of them. In comparison, it took Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic until their late 20s to master the slowest surface in the sport.

Reflecting on his journey, Alcaraz expressed his childhood fascination with this tournament, recalling how he would rush home from school to watch it on TV. Now, he stood before the crowd, proudly hoisting the trophy. Zverev described him as a “Hall of Famer” during his speech, recognizing Alcaraz’s exceptional talent and potential.

For Zverev, Sunday’s defeat only added to his frustration at Grand Slam events. Despite reaching the semifinals eight times, the German is still in pursuit of his first title. However, he remains determined and vowed to return next year with renewed determination and ambition.

In the first men’s Roland Garros final in twenty years that did not feature any member of the Big Three – Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer – Alcaraz and Zverev failed to make a strong impression. Their lack of consistency led to a disappointing performance.

Alcaraz appeared to have the advantage on multiple occasions but failed to maintain it. However, he ultimately rose to the occasion against a visibly frustrated Zverev. Zverev had entered the final with a 12-match winning streak on clay.

This is now the second Grand Slam final that the fourth seed has lost. Previously, he lost the U.S. Open final four years ago, where he was just two points away from victory against Dominic Thiem.

Despite experiencing nerves at Roland Garros, where his fellow countryman Nadal has won a record 14 titles, Alcaraz managed to remain composed despite a few hiccups.

Under the sunny skies of court Philippe Chatrier, Alcaraz secured an early break with a powerful forehand winner down the line. However, Zverev, who defeated a veteran Nadal in the first round, quickly leveled the score to 1-1.

SEE-SAW ENCOUNTER
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 elevated his performance to save four break points in the following game and take a 3-1 lead. However, there was a contentious moment when he served a second serve that was initially called out, only to be overturned by the umpire after reviewing the footage. “There were some unfortunate moments. I heard that at 2-1, the second serve was deemed out. According to the Hawk Eye data, I saw that too. If I had broken back there, I would have had break opportunities, and then in the next service game, the fifth set could have gone differently,” Zverev commented. “There’s a distinction between being down 3-1 in the fifth set and being tied at two-all. “It’s frustrating in the end, but it is what it is. Umpires make mistakes. They’re human too, and that’s alright.

But of course, in a situation like that, you hope there wouldn’t be any errors.” Zverev, who aimed to become the first German male player to win a singles Grand Slam since Boris Becker in 1996, once again saw his aspirations slip away on the grandest stage. Alcaraz broke once more before serving out the match and securing the title on his first match point. “When you’re playing a fifth set, you have to give your all and pour your heart into it. Those moments are when the top players showcase their best tennis,” Alcaraz stated.

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