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Alcaraz recovers to beat Sinner & reach Paris final against Zverev

Carlos Alcaraz clenches his fist and his teeth in celebration at the French Open
Carlos Alcaraz has reached his first French Open final [Getty Images]

Carlos Alcaraz moved a step closer to a maiden French Open title by beating incoming world number one Jannik Sinner in an engrossing semi-final.

Spanish third seed Alcaraz showed resilience to twice fight back from behind in a 2-6 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3 win.

Alcaraz missed two match points - hitting the net after a baseline duel and then lamping a forehand long - before taking his third opportunity.

He will face German fourth seed Alexander Zverev in Sunday's men's final.

Italian second seed Sinner, who struggled with cramps in the third set, was bidding for back-to-back major titles after winning the Australian Open in January.

But Alcaraz came through after growing stronger as the match wore on.

"You have to find the joy in suffering, that’s the key," Alcaraz said.

"Even more here on clay - long rallies, four-hour matches, five sets, you have to fight. But you have to enjoy suffering."

The 21-year-old is now just one win from completing three legs of a career Grand Slam, having already triumphed at the 2022 US Open and last year’s Wimbledon.

Zverev, 27, won 2-6 6-2 6-4 6-2 against Norwegian seventh seed Casper Ruud in the second semi-final later on Friday.

Zverev played just hours after a trial in Berlin over domestic abuse allegations made by his former girlfriend was discontinued.

Alcaraz comes through 'one of toughest' matches

The emerging rivalry between Sinner and Alcaraz is one that many in tennis believe can fill the void left by the ageing superstars.

Few will forget their epic US Open quarter-final in 2022, which finished at 2:50am in New York and featured some jaw-dropping exchanges.

This was a different type of contest. Neither player found their best level consistently - and rarely at the same time.

But the match developed into an absorbing encounter where, at times, each man relied on heart as much as their head.

“It was one of the toughest matches I’ve played, for sure,” said Alcaraz.

Sinner, 22, made what could be considered a perfect start, taking Alcaraz’s serve with the two break points he created and twice holding to love for a 4-0 lead.

By defending robustly and returning with depth, Sinner forced a flurry of mistakes from Alcaraz’s forehand and continued to bewilder his opponent at the start of the second set.

Another early break put Sinner ahead - but the dynamic swiftly changed.

Alcaraz, finding better angles and more precision with Sinner not hitting as deep, broke twice to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 5-2 lead and level the match.

After trading breaks at the start of the third set, Alcaraz could not take four more chances at 2-2 when Sinner struggled with cramp in his playing arm.

Having received treatment, Sinner recovered to break in the next game before he required further attention – this time on his legs - from the physio.

Sinner served out to move back in front. However, a wild overhead at 30-15 4-5 in the fourth set, pushing it wide with Alcaraz stranded, proved costly.

Last year, Alcaraz suffered from full body cramps in his maiden Roland Garros semi-final, blaming it afterwards on the tension of facing the incomparable Novak Djokovic.

This time, he looked more relaxed as the match wore on and ultimately raced ahead to clinch the decider.

"I think it was a great match," Sinner said.

"The sets he won he played better in the important points. That was the key."

Zverev ends semi-final hoodoo

Zverev's pursuit for a first Grand Slam title has come against the backdrop of his court case.

Before Roland Garros, the Olympic champion said the trial was "not on my mind" and has looked focused throughout the fortnight.

Zverev tuned up for the French Open by winning the prestigious Rome title and has shown why he was considered a serious contender coming into the clay-court major.

After losing in his past three Slam semi-finals, he put in a largely controlled performance against 2022 and 2023 runner-up Ruud, who was struggling with what he described as "tummy ache" throughout.

It was the third time he has come back from losing the first set, cruising through the next three after facing - and saving - only one break point.

“I’m extremely happy because I’ve got so much history on this court - some of the best memories and some of the worst memories,” said Zverev, who suffered a serious ankle injury in his 2022 semi-final against Rafael Nadal.

“I’m happy to come through my fourth semi-final. The first two sets were high level and then I saw he started to move slower when he wasn’t feeling well – but his shots were still the same.”