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Alcaraz rallies past Sinner to claim Roland Garros title in final against Zverev

Alcaraz se impone a Sinner
Carlos Alcaraz jugará la final de Roland Garros
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PARIS – Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz will go for the Roland Garros title on Sunday after a 1-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Italy’s Jannik Sinner, the new world number one on Monday.

It will be the third Grand Slam title sought by the 21-year-old Spaniard after the US Open 2022 and Wimbledon 2023. His opponent will be Germany’s Alexander Zverev, who beat Norwegian Casper Ruud 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in a match played to a half-empty stadium.

It will be the third Grand Slam title sought by the 21-year-old Spaniard after the US Open 2022 and Wimbledon 2023.

‘Some of the best and some of the worst memories are from this court,’ Zverev said after denying Ruud his third straight row in the Bois de Boulogne. The Norwegian was suffering from a stomach virus that caused him to retire to the locker room for a few minutes.

Zverev fractured his ankle in the 2022 semi-final against Rafael Nadal, and believes his time has come.

“I’m 27 years old, I’m not a kid anymore. If not now, then when?”

Alcaraz could answer no, not this Sunday. ‘Of course I see myself lifting the trophy,’ said the Spaniard, who summed up in a ‘enjoy the suffering’ part of his recipe for winning a semi-final on Friday that was not brilliant from either side.

The Spaniard had achieved on Tuesday night, in his resounding win over Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, a first achievement that was very modest, although important for him: winning the first game on his serve, because in the three previous matches he had been broken.

“You have to find the joy in suffering. I think that’s the key,” said Alcaraz after the 4:09 hours match.

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Alcaraz had achieved on Tuesday night, in his resounding victory over the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, a first achievement that was very modest, although important for him: winning the first game with his serve, because in the three previous matches he had been broken.

In the semi-final it got worse: Sinner broke Alcaraz not only in the first game, but also in the third, and took an unexpected 4-0 lead thanks to a flat, fast, almost uncontrollable forehand.

The Spaniard looked tense, stiff, perhaps with the memory of the semi-final a year earlier against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, where he suffered nerves and cramps that contributed decisively to the defeat.

It took 20 minutes for Alcaraz to start to loosen up and display some of his game and finally defend his serve to make it 1-4.

Alcaraz began to gain confidence and broke Sinner’s serve to close to 2-4, but the Italian broke again demonstrating two things: his virtuoso tennis is accompanied by a remarkable fighting spirit, and being made official this Monday as world number one in the ATP rankings is not so enjoyable if it is not accompanied by the Roland Garros title.

Sinner sealed a 6-2 lead in 40 minutes with a clenched fist and a clear superiority over Alcaraz, who surrendered his serve again at the start of the second set.

Alcaraz managed to take a 4-2 lead in the second set and would not let go: he took the set 6-3 to turn the third set into a hinge of the match. Would it go to the Italian or the Spaniard?

That third set belonged to Sinner, who recovered his level and once again exploited Alcaraz’s doubts. But in the fourth set something different happened to what had been happening in the rest of the match: the Italian began to fail under pressure and the Spaniard, even without his best tennis, managed to be more competitive and dangerous.

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Inspired perhaps by the Roland Garros phrase written in the Philippe Chatrier stadium (‘victory belongs to the most tenacious’), Alcaraz showed that, tenacity, to always be within Sinner’s reach and, in the decisive moment, break his serve with authority to take the fourth set 6-4.

The start of the fifth set marked a key moment. Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz’s long-suffering coach in the stands, has been trying out a variation on the return of serve with him in recent times, a short, angled return. And it was to this shot that Alcaraz appealed, an extremely cross-court and short backhand, to take break point and not spare Sinner on the following point: 2-0 and the match seemed to be his.

Alcaraz rallies past Sinner

A match that was offering points of the highest level. With every challenge, the opponent responded by raising the bar. Sinner, at a 3-1 deficit, hit a backhand from another planet and slowly began to get out of the confidence rut he had fallen into.

But Alcaraz was able to hold the early advantage of a broken serve at the start of the set. With a clenched fist and looks of fury and ambition in the stands, he took the match to the decider. On Sunday he will look for glory in the most important tournament on clay.

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