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Alcaraz overcomes Zverev to land first French Open title

Carlos Alcaraz raises his fist in celebration
Carlos Alcaraz has now won Grand Slam titles at the US Open, Wimbledon and the French Open [Getty Images]

Carlos Alcaraz won the French Open title many thought he was destined to claim by edging a scrappy five-set final against Alexander Zverev.

Third seed Alcaraz won 6-3 2-6 5-7 6-1 6-2 on the Roland Garros clay.

The Spaniard was below the level of confidence and consistency which enabled him to win his first two major finals - at the US Open in 2022 and last year's Wimbledon.

But the 21-year-old came through to become the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all three surfaces.

Clay was the surface which Alcaraz grew up playing on in his hometown of Murcia and the French Open event he dreamt of winning.

He instantly fell on to his back – in a celebration akin to 14-time champion Rafael Nadal – when he took his first match point after four hours and 19 minutes with a forehand winner.

"I used to watch the tournament on television and I’m now lifting the title," said Alcaraz, who was presented with the trophy by six-time champion Bjorn Borg.

German fourth seed Zverev, who was looking to finally land his first Grand Slam title, presented a formidable opponent after a 12-match winning streak on the red dirt.

But the 27-year-old's wait for the major title he has long been predicted to win continues after his second defeat in a Grand Slam final.

"I feel like I did everything I could," said Zverev, who lost to Dominic Thiem from two sets up in the 2020 US Open final.

"Carlos played fantastic. He played better than me in the fourth and fifth set. It's how it is."

How momentum and quality fluctuated in strange final

Both men had reason to be nervous and it showed in a strange match where neither regularly played anywhere near their best.

Alcaraz was hoping to achieve a childhood dream while Zverev was aiming to fulfil the talent many saw when the prodigious teenager followed older brother Mischa – a former Australian Open quarter-finalist - around on tour.

An edgy Zverev opened up with two double faults on his way to losing serve, but broke back after uncertain hitting from Alcaraz.

Alcaraz began to settle as he soaked up Zverev’s powerful groundstrokes and took the German’s serve again for a 3-2 lead. Now starting to strut, the cross-court forehand winner which sealed the set illustrated his growing confidence.

In the second set Zverev found more depth and bounce with his returning. A despondent-looking Alcaraz struggled to cope and lost five games in a row from a 2-1 lead.

The level and intensity increased in what both players knew was a pivotal third set. Alcaraz broke to love pretty much out of nowhere, having lost the previous 14 points on Zverev’s serve, but momentum and quality continued to fluctuate.

From a 5-2 deficit, Zverev levelled for 5-5 and broke a tense Alcaraz for 6-5 before serving out for the lead.

Another twist came in the fourth. This time, Zverev’s level dipped sharply and Alcaraz, despite needing treatment for a leg injury, ran away to force a decider.

Alcaraz comes through after contrasting build-ups

Coming into Roland Garros, Alcaraz had not played for a month because of pain in his right forearm and continued to wear a support throughout the tournament.

He missed the Italian Open as a consequence and arrived in Paris with only a run to the Madrid Open quarter-finals under his belt on clay.

In contrast, Zverev prepared by winning the prestigious title in Rome.

Their varying paths to the tournament - and the draw - meant it was a difficult final to call.

That remained the case when the pair started the deciding set.

By now Zverev had spent almost 24 hours on court in the tournament – having taken the longest route to the French Open final since records began in 1991.

A shocker of a game - including two poor volleys and a double faults - saw Zverev lose serve for 2-1 in the fifth set, before Alcaraz had a missed second serve overruled on break point in the next game and went on to hold.

Olympic champion Zverev dipped into his mental and physical reserves again to create five break points, but could not take any of them as Alcaraz survived.

When Alcaraz broke for 5-2, with the help of a sensational backhand cross-court winner, Zverev looked utterly demoralised and could not recover.

"The fifth set, there was some unlucky moments," said Zverev, whose defeat came two days after his trial over domestic abuse allegations was discontinued.

"I heard that at 2-1 the second serve was out.

"I break back there, then a fifth set can go the other way."