Roland Garros

Alcaraz makes history with the Roland Garros title

He is the youngest man to win Grand Slam on three different surfaces

June 09, 2024

Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Carlos Alcaraz holds his first Musketeers Cup in Paris.
By Staff

Carlos Alcaraz entered the history of Roland Garros through the front door, winning the third Grand Slam cup of his career in Paris at just 21 years old. The Spaniard made the clay temple his own with a memorable delivery, conquering an audience that already embraces him as their new great figure. If variety in punches, leg speed and perseverance are the pillars of clay, the Murcian custom-made his brand new champion suit.

The world No. 3 resisted maturely in an electric final, defeating Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 after four hours and 20 minutes, a player in splendor on the surface. The German, riding a streak of 12 consecutive victories on clay after recovering the throne of Rome, presented himself as a formidable rival for the most desired cup. Having beaten him at Melbourne Park at the start of the season, Alexander set up an open game from start to finish in the French capital.

Under the eyes of Pista Philippe-Chatrier, Alcaraz completed a personal security effort on the biggest stages. The Spaniard, previously champion at the US Open 2022 and at Wimbledon 2023, became the seventh player in the Open Era capable of winning his first three Grand Slam finals, putting him on par with the best competitors the sport has ever seen. Only the Swiss Roger Federer, who won his first seven majors without error in the final matches, has a more reliable arrival at the temples of tennis.

“It has been an incredible job,” Alcaraz told his team during the awards ceremony. “During the last month we have suffered a lot with the injury. When we played in Madrid I did not feel well. The following week there were many doubts and when we came here we were not able to train much. I am very grateful to the team and the people I have around me.”

“All the members of my team have done their best to help me improve as a player and as a person. To help me grow. I feel very grateful, I call you a team but we are a family.”

In a duel between first-time finalists, something unprecedented in Paris since 2005, tension soon erupted on the clay. Zverev opened the match with two consecutive double faults, a prelude to a rocky start, where no player managed to keep his first turn of serve. In that tangle of nerves, Alcaraz’s range of resources gave him a direct landing in the rhythm of the final. The Spaniard managed to raise his level to impose his forehand, height changes and reflexes, breaking Zverev’s hard serve three times to catch the first set.

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A factor invisible to the eyes rested on the track: accumulated fatigue. Zverev had needed 19 hours and 27 minutes to reach the final of Roland Garros, the most demanding volume since there are records in the Parisian Grand Slam. With two five-set matches in their legs, no one had had to row as hard to get within one step of the Musketeers Cup. Immersed in the adrenaline of the moment, however, those efforts did not diminish the German’s dedication at all.

Zverev managed to abstract himself from the situation to sign a strong reaction in Paris. If the German passed a test of conviction in the first round, defeating the 14-time champion Rafael Nadal under maximum expectation, he maintained his composure to return to a sharp match. The strength of his shots, especially a precise service like few others, introduced him fully into the fight for the cup, linking the last five games of the set to present his alternative.

“You have to put yourself at their level of fighting!” shouted Juan Carlos Ferrero from the Murcian bench. On a sunny Paris afternoon, Zverev’s raw punches had begun to take their toll on an orderly match. Alcaraz, who had not generated a single breaking ball in the entire second set, needed to regain the verve that has made him one of the most respected tennis players in the world. It was a premonitory warning of what was to come in the match.

At that moment, Alcaraz overcame what seemed like a decisive moment in Paris. The Spaniard went through an agonizing seventh game, picking up three break points to make the score 5-2. Far from being a definitive emotional blow, it led to a complete turn of the script at Philippe-Chatrier. Zverev remained consistent, never gave up and managed to play five consecutive games to be one step away from the cup. Within his direct nature, the German’s patience gave him the helm of the match.

Throughout the tournament, Alcaraz had stressed a key: the importance of enjoying suffering. Now, as if testing his words, the final put him before the toughest exam of all. A five-game battle without the possibility of making a mistake to compete for glory. If in hand-to-hand combat the exchange of hard blows favored Zverev, the construction of points was the torture necessary to stay afloat.

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The Murcian, who had survived Jannik Sinner in five sets, rolled up his sleeves to replicate the task. With the Musketeers Cup as a witness, Alcaraz opened the fourth set with a firm lead of 4-0, guaranteeing a psychological battle to the limit. If the drama was not enough, the Spaniard even received medical attention for his legs, strained after two weeks of unstoppable intensity. Nothing that would prevent him from reaching the decisive fifth round on his feet.

So, the match tested hearts on both sides of the net. Paris concentrated the effort of a lifetime into a handful of games. A disorderly turn of service, with volleys to the net and double faults as a sentence, blew up Zverev’s security, at the mercy of the beginning of the last round. With the 2-1 in his hands, Alcaraz protected himself tooth and nail against a mature rival, capable of turning his backhand into a whip for more than four hours. Alcaraz’s energetic legs, which deactivated the four break points suffered in the last set, ensured a memorable match.

Driven by absolute strength, Alcaraz delivered the final blow by breaking Zverev’s serve to make it 5-2. On the verge of glory, the Spaniard launched himself in a straight line to secure the trophy after completing a marathon. With a monumental balance of 11-1 in fifth sets, Carlos underlined a hallmark: an unusual capacity for effort towards victory.

“I want to congratulate Sascha for this great start to the season. You have shown a great level of tennis, you had a great tournament,” Alcaraz told Zverev, second in the PIF ATP Live Race To Turin. “The level at which you are playing and the daily work you do is incredible. I know that you have given your soul every day that you take the court.”

“Everyone knows what you have been through these years after the injury on this court, the daily effort you have made to reach the final of this tournament. The journey has been incredible since then. I am sure that very soon you will have more opportunities to win Grand Slams or this tournament.

The Murcian placed his name on a historical list, the list of Spanish champions at Roland Garros. More than a goal, it was an illusion that had always accompanied him since he was a child. The exploits of Rafael Nadal, Sergi Bruguera, Manuel Santana, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Albert Costa, Carlos Moyà and Andrés Gimeno are accompanied from this Sunday by the smiling figure of Carlos, ready to write a new era on the clay of Paris.

Thus, the victory allows Alcaraz to maintain his dominance (6-4) over Zverev in the Lexus ATP Head2Head history, one of the most balanced in the Spaniard’s career. Carlos overcame a rival of maximum demand in the majorscapable of defeating him in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January and in the only previous clash at Roland Garros during the 2022 season.

Zverev was on the verge of becoming the third German man capable of lifting a Grand Slam singles title. The one from Hamburg will continue to seek in the wake of the six-time champion Boris Becker and Michael Stich, until today, the only compatriot who had set foot on the final of Roland Garros in the Open Era. Zverev remains 0-2 in Grand Slam finals, after narrowly missing the cup at the 2020 US Open.

The coronation at Roland Garros means that Alcaraz rises to No. 2 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings, surpassing Serbian Novak Djokovic into second place in the rankings. In a battle between the two greatest young talents in the locker room, the Spaniard is 945 points behind the Italian Jannik Sinner, who this Monday will be promoted to world No. 1 on the ATP Tour for the first time in his career.

Did you know…?
Carlos Alcaraz is the seventh man to win Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces. The 21-year-old Spaniard, the youngest ever to achieve this feat, joins a list made up of icons such as Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander and Rafael Nadal.


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