Alcaraz wins 1st French Open crown in 5-set thriller

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates after winning his men's singles final match against Germany's Alexander Zverev on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day fifteen of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on June 9, 2024. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

You cannot stop Carlos Alcaraz on clay. You can only hope to slow him down.

Alcaraz has won his maiden French Open title, defeating Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2. He battled Zverev’s blistering serve and powerful volleys, but he mainly battled himself. He played sloppy tennis at times, giving away points with double faults and missing easy shots, but overcame his own demons as well as Zverev to take home his third Grand Slam title.

After the first set, it felt like the match was Alcaraz’s to win. He had bullied Zverev around the court, sending him running and exploiting his energy level; unlike Alcaraz, Zverev had spent nearly 20 hours on the court coming into the final and was not as fresh as you’d want to be.

But then in the second set Alcaraz’s energy began to lag. He became wild and undisciplined, and Zverev took advantage. He finally experienced some sustained success against Alcaraz and took a 4-2 lead. Alcaraz looked like he was ready to take control again, but he couldn’t find any consistency. His second double fault put Zverev up 5-2, and a quick game later it was 6-2 and Zverev had evened up the score.

The third set was a roller coaster. Alcaraz took an early 2-1 lead, then found his second wind while tied 2-2 in the third set. Zverev took a second to do what he does best (complain to the chair umpire about any perceived slight or disadvantage), and from that moment, Alcaraz was back in the game. He was cheering and jumping and smiling again. As he’s told the media in the past, you have to enjoy the suffering in tennis, and that’s what Alcaraz does best.

But it didn’t last. Up 5-2 and just one game from taking a 2-1 lead, Alcaraz became sloppy and Zverev came roaring back. He won five straight games to win the third set 7-5. Now Alcaraz was playing from behind.

But that just gave Alcaraz a new challenge to handle. And he thrived. He rolled through the fourth set, coming close to bageling Zverev but managing to win 6-1 — even with a medical timeout to tend to his sore thigh. There were no shortcuts through this match. The only way to win was to play all five sets.

And that’s just what he did. Zverev won the first game but otherwise came out very flat. Alcaraz, six years Zverev’s junior, came out bouncing, and it reflected in how he played. He cut down the unforced errors, became very disciplined, and rode that all the way to victory.

He earned every bit of celebration, and he did that first with his team.

We also got to see a parental celebration, as Alcaraz’s mother and father were in the stands.

With this win (and the withdrawal of Novak Djokovic), Alcaraz will move up from No. 3 in the world to No. 2. Jannik Sinner, who lost to Alcaraz in the semifinals, will move up from No. 2 to No. 1. Djokovic will slide from 1 down to 3, while Zverev’s loss in the final will keep him steady at No. 4.

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