Alcaraz outlasts Zverev to win maiden French Open title

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates his triumph. Photo: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

Paris: Carlos Alcaraz made a grand entrance into the tennis history books as he claimed his maiden French Open title to become the youngest man to capture Grand Slams on all three surfaces with a see-saw five-set victory over German Alexander Zverev on Sunday.

The 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 win may not have been a classic, but the Spaniard showed he belonged among the elite as he added a third Grand Slam title to his 2022 US Open and 2023 Wimbledon triumphs.

Alcaraz became the seventh man to win a major on hard, grass and clay courts, a feat that eluded some of the sport's greats, including American Pete Sampras, who boasts 14 major titles, but never won at Roland Garros.

At 21 years old, Alcaraz has played in three grand slam finals and won them all, while for comparison, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were in their late 20s before they mastered the sport's slowest surface.

Carlos Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz celebrates with the trophy. Photo: Reuters/Stephanie Lecocq

"Since I was little kid I was running from school to put on the TV to watch this tournament. Now I am lifting the trophy in front of all of you," said Alcaraz, who was described by Zverev as a "Hall of Famer".

Sunday's defeat prolonged Zverev's frustration at Grand Slams, with the German still chasing a first title despite reaching the last four eight times.

"I'll be back next year," Zverev promised.

Zverev & Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz, right, hugs Alexander Zverev after the final. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

In the first men's Roland Garros final not featuring any member of the Big Three - Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Federer - in two decades, Alcaraz and Zverev failed to impress, their lack of consistency making for a disappointing display.

Alcaraz often looked like he had got the upper hand, only to let it slip several times but he ultimately rose to the occasion against an increasingly frustrated Zverev, who entered the final on the back of a 12-match winning streak on clay.

The fourth seed has now lost both his Grand Slam finals, after losing the US Open decider four years ago when he was two points away from victory against Dominic Thiem.

Alcaraz, who has suffered with bouts of nerves at Roland Garros, where his compatriot Nadal won a record 14 titles, kept his composure despite some blips.

On a sun-kissed court Philippe Chatrier, Alcaraz slapped a forehand winner down the line to snatch the early break, only for Zverev, who beat an ageing Nadal in the first round, to level for 1-1.

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 still managed to wrap up the set to force a decider and a woeful third game by Zverev gave him the early break. Alcaraz then raised his level significantly to save four break points in the following game and increase his lead to 3-1.

Zverev, who was bidding to become the first German man to win a singles Grand Slam since Boris Becker in 1996, saw his hopes slip away on the biggest stage yet again.

Alcaraz broke once more before serving it out and clinching the title on his first match point.

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