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Alcaraz rallies in five-set thriller for maiden French Open title

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-06-10 10:11
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Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates with the French Open trophy after winning the men's singles final against Germany's Alexander Zverev in Roland Garros, Paris, France, on June 9, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - Another milestone win for Carlos Alcaraz and another Grand Slam title for the 21-year-old youngster.

The Spaniard demonstrated his prowess by lifting major trophies on all kinds of surfaces after a marathon victory over Alexander Zverev in the French Open final on Sunday. Alcaraz came from a 1-2 set deficit to clinch the victory 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, securing his first title at Roland Garros.

"Winning your first in every Grand Slam is always super special," he said. "But in Roland-Garros, knowing all the Spanish players who have won this tournament and be able to put my name on that amazing list is something unbelievable. Something that I dream about being in this position since I started playing tennis, since I was five, six years old. It's a great, great feeling."

Alcaraz has already won the hard-court US Open in 2022 and the grass-court Wimbledon in 2023. The win in Paris makes him the youngest man to capture Grand Slams on all three surfaces.

"Third Grand Slam, 21 years old, it's incredible," Zverev said. "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."

A pivotal moment in the deciding set came with Alcaraz serving at 2-1, 15/40. The 2023 semifinalist sent down a second serve that was called out, but the chair umpire checked the mark and called it in. After nearly double-faulting to lose serve, Alcaraz held on and consolidated his early fifth-set service break.

The Spaniard is now 11-1 in five-set matches, with his only loss coming against Matteo Berrettini at the 2022 Australian Open.

"You have to give your heart. In those moments, it's where the top players give their best tennis," Alcaraz said.

The last time the pair met at a major was in the quarterfinals of this year's Australian Open, where Zverev only dropped serve twice on his way to a four-set victory. But this time, the story changed.

Alcaraz secured the opening set by focusing on his return game after a cagey start in which both players dropped their opening service games. Zverev began his second major final with back-to-back double faults, prompting an immediate change of racquet. Despite being broken three times in the first set and having to fend off two break points in another service game at 2-4, Zverev managed to maintain his focus.

An improved serving performance in the second set helped Zverev halt Alcaraz's charge. The German landed 83 percent of his first serves and won 80 percent of those points.

After winning five straight games to claim the second set, Zverev turned the final further on its head by winning another five consecutive games to take the third set. Alcaraz had served for the set at 5-2 but soon found himself two sets to one down as Zverev found another hot streak.

However, Alcaraz managed to stay calm and fight back, just as he did in the semifinal against Jannik Sinner. He made a rapid start to the fourth set by winning the opening four games before saving all five break points he faced in the decider to clinch his win.

"He played fantastic. He played better than me in the fourth and fifth set. It's how it is," Zverev said. "I felt like this Grand Slam final I did everything I could. At the US Open I kind of gave it away myself. It's a bit different."

The world No. 4 lost his first major final in the 2020 US Open, when he was two sets ahead and only two points from realizing his Grand Slam promise, but only to see Dominic Thiem mount a comeback and suffer a heartbreaking defeat.

In the first men's final in Paris in 20 years that did not feature any of the 'Big Three' of Nadal, Novak Djokovic, or Roger Federer, Alcaraz served a reminder that when fully fit and firing, he is the prime candidate to lead the current crop.

"I talked to my coach Juan Carlos (Ferrero) before facing this final. He told me, 'you're going to fight for your third Grand Slam title, with everything you have been through, and you know the difficult part of winning a Grand Slam, and Djokovic has 24'. So it is unbelievable," the No.3 seed said.

"Right now I can't think about it. I just want to keep going, and let's see how many Grand Slams I'm gonna take at the end of my career. Hopefully reach the 24, but right now I'm going to enjoy my third one, and let's see in the future."

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