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Alcaraz makes history with Roland Garros win

Alcaraz makes history in Roland Garros
Carlos Alcaraz, campeón de Roland Garros 2024 / SEBASTIÁN FEST
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PARIS – Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz made history in a big way by winning Roland Garros on Sunday as he became the youngest player in the professional era to lift three Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces.

Alcaraz, 21, beat Germany’s Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 to add the French Open to his 2022 US Open and 2023 Wimbledon titles.

“We suffered a lot with the injury in the previous weeks”, said Alcaraz during an awards ceremony in which he received the trophy from Sweden’s Bjorn Borg, five-time champion of the tournament.

“I am very grateful to the people I have around me, they make me improve as a player and as a person as I grow. I call them a team, but they are family.  I’m lucky to have part of my family here. When I got out of school I would run to turn on the TV at home to watch this tournament, and now I have this trophy.”

After a four-hour, 19 minute final, the 27-year-old Zverev still has the unfinished business of winning any of the four major tennis tournaments.

For the stats fanatics: has anyone ever started a Grand Slam final with two consecutive double faults? That’s what Zverev did in the first game, and that crooked start allowed Alcaraz to take the tennis and psychological window from the start. At 40-40 he attacked with a ruthless forehand return, to finish with a low cross-court backhand volley that was perfect. And a minute later he took the game.

That was his plan, not in vain when winning the draw he chose to return serve: he wanted to break his opponent from the first moment of the match.

The plan had, however, a setback: the Spaniard surrendered his serve the first time it was his turn to serve, which is something that had happened to him in most of the matches in this tournament.

Alcaraz recovered: he broke in the fifth game and had Zverev serving 2-4 and 15-40, but was unable to finish off that game.

In any case, the Spaniard was much looser and more confident than in the early stages of the semi-final against Italian Jannik Sinner. At times he seemed to be having fun with the variety of shots and spin he tried against the German. So it was that, on a somewhat cool day which as the final progressed would become increasingly and annoyingly windy, Alcaraz took the first set 6-3 with a fantastic cross-court forehand that his opponent couldn’t even run down.

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Alcaraz and Zverev in one of the most brilliant points of the final of Roland Garros 2024 / SEBASTIÁN FEST

The wind did indeed begin to be a key factor, with dust kicking up and whirlwinds altering the trajectory of the ball. In one such turbulence Alcaraz missed a forehand badly to launch an unintentional home-run into the stands and, on the following point, lose serve.

At 3-2, Zverev defended serve for 4-2, only for Alcaraz to come in at the least consistent moments of the final. So much so, that the Spaniard, surrendered his serve with a double fault to give the German a 5-2 lead, who finished off the set 6-2. Zverev had offered high quality points in the set, but what would happen in the third?

Alcaraz put aside the frustration, regained much of the consistency and even the joy in the game. He saved a break point at 4-2 with a drop-shot and backhand passing combination and, amid an increasingly ferocious wind across the orange clay, looked to be on his way to capturing the third set.

But Zverev was no longer the player he was at the start, the German’s shots were much more peppery and his spirit was that of a fighter. A fighter who broke his opponent’s serve again to close the gap to 5-4.

The final was not good. There were some very brilliant points, yes, but the irregularity of both was imposing, with more and more missed forehands, real home-runs by Alcaraz, who returned to surrender the service to be in the worst situation: Zverev serving 6-5 after having the Spaniard with a 4-2 advantage and his service.

With Zverev set point, the German played a duel of high, pumped balls, almost balloons, with the intention of unsettling Alcaraz in the wind. He succeeded in doing so and took the set 7-5, a very different scenario to the one he had been facing until a few minutes earlier.

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The German had been in a similar situation before: it was in the final of the 2020 US Open with a two-sets-to-zero lead over Austrian Dominic Thiem and, in the fifth set, with his serve to win the tournament. The champion was Thiem.

Would something similar happen in Paris, would the champion finally be Alcaraz?

The Spaniard clenched his fist when he broke his opponent’s serve for 2-0 and again when he left him unanswered with a backhand drop shot to take a 4-0 lead. The final, modest in level, was heading for a fifth set.

A tight fist from Alcaraz, who was medically treated for a leg discomfort during a change of side, and a fifth set.

In that set Alcaraz showed the competitive hunger that drives him. With the centre court now almost completely in shadow, with only a few shreds of sunshine, he found a way to put his opponent on the defensive, arguing the odd shot with the chair umpire and earning the booing of the crowd, who were massively in favour of the Spaniard.

Alcaraz, without shining, fought and believed, and even smiled, in stark contrast to the German, owner of a sour and tense gesture at all times. So it was that the victory, which in the stadium is written ‘for the most tenacious’, finally fell on his side.

Alcaraz made history in Roland Garros

The Spaniard relied heavily, as always, on his technical team in the stands, which included Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz’s coach and something else on the pivotal afternoon of 9 June 2024 in Paris: Ferrero was, in 2003, the last Spaniard to win Roland Garros before Rafael Nadal turned the tournament into his personal monopoly.

Twenty-one years later, Alcaraz takes Ferrero’s baton in anticipation of what might happen in 2025, when Nadal will presumably play in the French Open for the last time.

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