Carlos Alcaraz beats Alexander Zverev in five sets to win his first French Open – as it happened

Estimated read time 20 min read

That, then, is us. Check back on-site soon for Tumaini Carayol’s match report, but other than that, thanks all for your company and comments over the last two weeks – it’s been a blast – and see you in three weeks for Wimbledon! Peace out! I’ll leave you with Tumaini Carayol’s report from Paris …

Alcaraz cradles the trophy to his bosom as we hear the Spanish national anthem – an underrated banger, in mine – then begins with “Hello everyone.” Hello Carlitos!

He starts by congratulating Zverev for all the work he’s put in recovering from injury and says he’s sure he’ll win slams and this tournament very soon; Zverev struggles to hold it down.

Alcaraz then thanks his team for “incredible work”. They were struggling with his injury, he didn’t feel well, and there was a lot of doubts. He came to Paris and didn’t practise too much, knows everyone in his team is “giving their heart to improve me as a player, a person, make me grown up; I call you as a team, but it’s a family so thank you very much.”

Next it’s thanks to his actual family, it’s great to have them here with him, but even when they’re not he knows they’re supporting him and have been such a kid. He used to run home from school to watch Roland Garros on the telly, and now he’s holding the trophy.

Finally, he thanks Mauresmo, everyone else involved with the tournament, and the crowd. They made him feel at the home and the tournament special; what a lovely lad he is.

Borg gives Zverev a consoling hug and I don’t think it’s going to take Hazel Irvine to make him cry. “Congratlations to Carlos,” he begins. “Twenty-one years old, third Grand Slam … it’s incredible, you’ve won three different ones. Amazing career, you’re already a hall-of-famer.”

He then congratulates Alcaraz’s team. “Unbelievable nice guys”, he says. “I’m happy for you, generally but not today.” He also thanks his own team, who’ve helped him get back to fitness after a bad injury on the same court, and hopes they’ll get to hold the trophy together one day.

Next, it’s warm words for Amelie Mauresmo, the tournament director, and the crowd – he loves the atmosphere, he loves playing on Chatrier, and he’ll be back next year.

Bjorn Borg comes out to present the trophies and looks every bit as cool as he ever did.

Ultimately, though, if he can’t improve his forehand he’ll forever have a problem, and today it felt like Alcaraz, a more laidback character secure in the knowledge that he was already a major winner, handled the clutch better.

Zverev has the hundred-yard stare on, as you might expect. I remember Andy Murray saying that after he lost to Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2012, he had to accept that he might never win a major, and processing that took a lot from him. He then, of course, won Flushing Meadow two months later, and Zverev is in a not-dissimilar position, good enough to beat anyone anywhere – bar the people who are better than him, in the biggest matches.

Alcaraz races up to chill with his people while Zverev sits desolate. He’ll know that, when it got really tight, so did he, whereas Alcaraz upped the controlled violence and won the biggest points with a combination of moxie and creativity. His ability to think clearly under the most intense pressure was one of the biggest differences between the two, and this won’t be the last time we see him celebrating.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-6 2-6 Alcaraz* Where does he find the energy? It feels like he’s able to delve into his essence to find what he needs, and a barrage of backhands make 15-0 … but then he goes long for 15-all. It feels like Zverev knows the jig is up, but – Alcaraz will have to hand this over, because I don’t think his opponent has enough left, physically or mentally to rip it from him; he’s hurting out there. So of course Alcaraz taunts and tantalises him again, commanding him to come in after another drop which he can’t retrieve, and at 30-15 he’s two points away. And an error from Zverev means two match point, a forehand to the corner can only be diverted into the net, AND CARLOS ALCARAZ HAS DONE IT! A SENSATIONAL MATCH, A SENSATIONAL PERFORMANCE, A TOTALLY SENSATIONAL CHARACTER! Every time Alcaraz was asked a question, he found an answer, and he is now the first man to win his first three Slams on different surfaces. He is awesome, stupendous and unique.

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-6 2-5 Alcaraz Forehand winner on to the line from Alcaraz, then one to the corner that Zverev can only hook out of court. BUT OH MY ABSOLUTE COMPLETE AND UTTER EVERLASTING DAYS! Sent to the backhand corner, Alcaraz composes a shot of total genius, sending a half-volley from behind him that zips cross-court and leaves Zverev, there for the simple putaway, a befuddled spectator. I’ve not a clue how you contrive that – at all, but at this point, having played for this long? Inspiring, mortifying work, and another forehand on to the line takes Alcaraz to within a game of realising a dream. He is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, any sport.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-6 2-4 Alcaraz* I might just be saying this because of this match and the Alcaraz-Sinner semi, but it feels like when the better men player each other over best-of-five, a five-setter is always likely because they’re well-matched and, good though they are, none of them are (yet?) good enough to play well enough for long enough to win easily. And here we go again, Zverev making 15-30 … but sent out wide, he can do nothing when an overhead is slammed towards the opposite corner. A gorgeous serve out wide-forehand clean-up combo-move follows for 40-30, but a backhand into the net and we’re again at deuce; this is so, so good. And Zverev again chases in after a drop, a terrific, dipping return forcing another leaping half-volley; it’s not good enough, and the German eventually earns break-point via overhead. Alcaraz, though, serve-volleys to make deuce – his ability to think strategically under pressure is wondrous – and a ninja’s forehand raises game-point … but he can’t take it, going long on the forehand! Zverev, though, bounds in to net a backhand, taking issue with Alcaraz appearing – to him – to stop play because he thought a ball was out. He didn’t, though though he did check the mark – and up advantage, a drop persuades Zverev to net! That’s another colossal hold, and the German is running out of road.

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-6 2-3 Alcaraz What?! Up 30-0, Zverev powers a forehand down the line, but running to his forehand corner, Alcaraz invents a squash shot that curls towards the other side of court and breaks the sideline! I’ve seen a lot of tennis but I don’t think I’ve ever quite seen that and though it’s soon 40-15, Alcaraz dominates the next point, again via forehand, and for the first time Zverev looks weary … all the more so when he gets down to despatch a volley and sends it wide, his new skill again not there for him at clutch. Then, at deuce, another drop hauls him to the net, he can’t find a winner, and Alcaraz has all the time he needs to lace a pass down the line; he has advantage, and with Zverev double-teapotting in bewilderment, it feels like effective match point. A backhand hammered cross-court on to the sideline, though, saves it, and up advantage, the same shot but played with greater margin for error, secures a crucial hold. Pressure back on Alcaraz!

Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-6 1-3 Alcaraz* Alcaraz sends a forehand long for 0-15, then wipes a drop into the net; I feel sick watching them. AND HAVE A LOOK! A forehand now sent wide, and Zverev has three break-back points, both men losing the run of themselves and how could they not? Alcaraz, though, steadies himself to hit consecutive forehands to the forehand side, the second a winner, but when a second serve is called out, the umpire shows Zverev it’s in – he’s not having it – and he must now face a first delivery. It’s a strange rule that, and it works for Alcaraz who sticks in the point long enough to benefit from a backhand error, before annihilating an inside-out forehand on to the sideline for a winner! This is an absolutely rrridiculous game of tennis, an absolutely rrridiculous game of anything, and Zverev misses multiple chances to secure advantage via putaway at the net, dead careful not to give it away, and eventually Alcaraz, having run from hither to yon and back again, misreads the speed, mistiming his leap to a ball that’s slower than expected. So, tired from the exertion, he sends a kicker out wide and follows it in, regaining deuce, unloads every fibre of his being into a surprise leaping backhand winner down the line, and the consolidation is, for the first time, within reach! AND THERE IT IS! Serve out wide, drop to the other sideline, and what a hold that is, from 0-40 down! The crowd go absolutely wild, and well they might!

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-6 1-2 Alcaraz NOW THEN! Zverev puts a volley long, then goodness me, another into the net, and is his relatively new skill failing him under the evils of the greatest pressure of his life? That second miss in particular was very poor indeed, a double follows, and Alcaraz has three break points having done almost nothing! Zverev will be feeling it slipping away – he knows the sensation and believe he despises it – but a big serve forces the long return for 15-40. But a long backhand hands over as free a break as you’ll see, Zverev’s banker-shot now failing him, and Alcaraz need only hold serve – four times! – to get his hands on the trophy! For him, though, there’ll be nerves too because having grown up in Spain, winning Roland-Garros will have been the dream. He’ll be feeling it.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-6 1-1 Alcaraz* A serve-forehand one-two makes 15-0, but then having down all the hard work, he goes long on the forehand. No matter, he soon makes 40-15, but after yet another sapping rally, he nets a forehand either hit tentatively or exhaustedly. He secures the game with a service-winner, but it’s worth noting that he’s not played much tennis lately, whereas Zverev recently noted, after his second five-setter on the spin, that lasting through them is easy when you train as hard as he does.

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-6 1-0 Alcaraz One of these is going feel total despair in roughly 50 minutes; imagine the exhaustion of a five-set final amounting to nowt. OK, nowt apart from a big cheque, but you can be certain neither man dreamt about that as a kid, nor flogs his body day after day with that goal in mind. Alcaraz takes more treatment at change of ends, then Zverev holds comfortably to 15, the only point ceded ceded via double. Check to you, Carlitos old mate.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-6 Alcaraz With the court open, Alcaraz forces a forehand down the line but wide, then again varies pace and loop but this time Zverev is on to him, advancing to punish a backhand winner for 0-30. We wind up at 15-40, Zverev going wide and long … then just wide, and that brings us to deuce, Alcaraz caressing a drop … that clips the tape and drops on his side! No matter, Zverev tries a looper of his own – how did he come u with that one? – landing it in mid-court, Alcaraz lashing a forehand winner to the corner before raising set point via his first ace since game one of set three. And when he stretches to tickle a backhand around his arse and from behind him, it dips improbably over the net and Zverev can’t return! We have ourselves our decider and I’ve not a clue who’s going to win it, but what a contest this is! Sensational behaviour from both players.

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-5 Alcaraz At 15-all, Zverev tests out Alcaraz’s leg, yanking him in via drop, then putting away the response. A netted forehand, though, puts him under pressure, then a putaway picks out Alcaraz, who diddles him with a lob that he runs around but can’t return. But thoug a point to restore the double-break disappears with a long forehand, Zverev first surrenders advantage, then deuce, and a forehand into the net means Alcaraz will now serve for a decider. Every single person in the world not connected to Zverev hopes he makes it.

“This is absolutely excellent entertainment,” emails Brendan Murphy. “The contrast in styles is very intriguing and they’re both tremendous problem-solvers. I knew Alcaraz was good at working out how to adapt his game on the fly, but the way Zverev is finding answers is very impressive.”

Early doors, he was being criticised by our commentary team for having no Plan B, but he started taking more risks, going for his shots, and in the process started to play better. He’s less likely to chuck in moon-balls, as Alcaraz did trying to save the third set, but he’s done enough so far even if his best periods have coincided with his opponent missing loads.

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-4 Alcaraz At change of ends, Alcaraz has the trainer on to mess with his left leg … and he takes a medical timeout.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 1-4 Alcaraz* At 15-all, Alcaraz sends a forehand wide, then Zverev punishes a backhand down the line for two break points; he dashes in to flick a backhand cross-court, taking the first of them, and has momentum switched yet again?

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 0-4 Alcaraz It’s Zverev struggling to hold now, and at 30-all a double cedes a point for the double-break, missing his second serve by a way. And this is stupendous stuff from Alcaraz now, a drop securing a 4-0 lead, and this match is going to get the decider it and we deserve.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 0-3 Alcaraz* Real talk: neither of these is quite playing well enough for long enough, which is why this is so good. But at the same time, each of them is playing brilliantly when they really really need to, and Alcaraz consolidates via love-hold. We have, though, seen him spurn this kind of lead before…

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 0-2 Alcaraz Alcaraz makes 0-15 but Zverev does a fine job in the next rally, another minging affair that he finishes definitively; it’s ridiculous how fit these two are. But what’s that?! Alcaraz skids into a ridiculous get, Zverev opts not to chance the overhead, leaping for it but leaving it, secure in the knowledge that it’s going wide … except it isn’t! 15-30, then Zverev sends a forehand close to the sideline … and it’s out! The umpire checks the mark, he’s certain the ball was good, even when the evidence confirms to the contrary, and here come two break points! The first quickly vanishes via long return AND OH I SAY! OH I EXPLETIVE SAY! Alcaraz bangs a backhand cross as Zverev comes in and the volley is decent … but what a shot comes next, a curling beauty spirited down the line, outside the line, and on to the line! What a contest this is!

Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 0-1 Alcaraz* Alcaraz had to go five to come from behind to beat Sinner on Friday and will have to do likewise here. He’s just not been able to sustain his quality today – I wonder if he relaxed a little after dominating the first set so ruthlessly – while Zverev has, in the event, times his little runs of form better. Alcarzz, though, holds well to 15, and Zverev must now serve from the tricky end, into the breeze.

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 7-5 Alcaraz Between games, Alcaraz bitches about insufficient clay on the court and that it’s playing like hard; shouldn’t that be good for him? I’m certain Zverev will have enjoyed hearing it, and he serve-volleys confidently to make 15-0. He’s so much better at that than he was, and it gives him an option should he need it whereas previously all he could do was hope to play better. A poor backhand from Alcaraz soon cedes 0-30, but tremendous hitting from the back halves the deficit and keeps things horrifically, majestically tense … then again. I’m not sure how either player can even hold his racket, never mind use it to attack balls with lethal force … and goodness me look at that, a monstrous point and a monstrouser – monstrousest! – serve out wide on to the line to raise set point! But Alcaraz, always thinking, lifts up three consecutive moon-ball backhands to the baseline and eventually Zverev errs! AND NOW LOOK! A stupendous point from Alcaraz, a surprise slice zoning over the net and leaving Zverev at the net, lost in the supermarket and unable to decide what to do, a nondescript response allowing the wrong-footing pass. And goodness me what a match this is, another ludicrous pressure-serve restoring deuce and an overhead muscled down raising a second set point. Then preparing to serve, Zverev discards a ball with blood on it, perhaps his after he tested his insulin levels at change of ends; more tension. And more terrifying groundstrokes before Zverev finds a forehand that’s too good, and from 2-5 down, he rebounds to claim the set! This is scintillating stuff, and it’s not even close to finished!

Zverev 3-6 6-2 6-5 Alcaraz* Now it’s Alcaraz feeling it a mishit soaring wide for 0-15, on which point, did you know that Scottish people pronounce “soar”, “sore” and “saw” differently? I know! Anyroad, a lovely drop and it’s 15-all, but then Zverev tries one – I know! – and Alcaraz gets there in time to have a chuckle, make a cuppa, and have his way with it, only to lump long! The extent to which I’m hammering the exclamation-mark key is not lost on me, I assure you, but it’s gone absolutely feral here and another Alcarazian mishit means he’s facing two break points! AND ZVEREV ONLY NEEDS ONE! A brutal forehand down the line takes control of the rally, Alcaraz nets, and the German will soon serve for the third set!

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 5-5 Alcaraz Zverev quickly makes 30-0, Alcaraz then sends a backhand return long, and a munter of an ace down the T makes a fifth love-hold of the match; we’re back on serve and I’ve not a clue how this is going to shake out.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 4-5 Alcaraz* The new balls should help Alcaraz, but after he’s a little cautious on a forehand to the corner, he can’t control his volley when sent a decent response. And when Zverev finds a fine backhand return, the pressure amps up infinite further degrees; I’ve not the slightest clue how these lads hold it down, given I’m shaking just typing about it. And the situation tells on Zverev, a poor shot followed by a dreadful shot handing Alcaraz 30-all … but Alcaraz then sends a backhand long, and must now face yet another break-back point! AND HAVE AN ABSOLUTE LOOK! A backhand cross has Alcaraz diving, having come to the net, and he can’t get near it! Zverev was given the first two points of that game, but after two awful shots spurned the gifts, he responded by unloading the suitcase and again the tactic worked for him! It’s just impossible to predict who’ll falter when! Sport is hard!

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 3-5 Alcaraz An ace opens the game, but Alcaraz then sends Zverev to the corner then, as he restores himself to the centre, directs the ball back whence it came for 15-all. A return to the ankles, though, makes 15-30, a return into the net 30-all … but from there, Zverev closes out, securing the hold with a drop and insisting Alcaraz do likewise if he wants the 2-1 advantage.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 2-5 Alcaraz* Up 30-0, Alcaraz loses out at the net, botches a backhand, and can’t handle a big forehand; just when you think this match has gone in one direction, it’s schlepped in the other, and Zverev now has a point for the break-back! But when Alcaraz slices a backhand, it skids off the baseline to make itself unreturnable; Zverez looks extremely forlorn. But a double then hands over advantage – this match is now fluctuating during points, games and sets – quickly extinguished with big serve and overhead. No matter: a forehand goes wide and plenty, raising a third opportunity for the immediate break-back … but another long, knackering, expletive brilliant rally ends when Zverev chases in after a drop, only to find himself vulnerable at the net and Alcaraz duly violences a winner that restores deuce. And from there, the Spaniard cleans up; he’s a game away from a 2-1 lead, while Zverev has done well not to call for the sick-bag.

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 2-4 Alcaraz A short return from Alcaraz sees Zverev slip as he chases in; that’s the first point against his serve in 15. Then, faced with a second serve, Alcaraz steps in, takes control of the rally with a dangerous forehand, and though he needs three more to close it out, he dematerialises them with such joyous confidence you’re sure he’s back in the match. And shonuff he quickly makes 0-40 – Zverev will be sick if he’s broken, having played so well – but he is, a backhand into the body doing the job! In all sports, the very best have timing, and Alcaraz’s ability to suddenly find his best tennis after struggling for almost an hour, reminds us of the essential difference between these two very fine players.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 2-3 Alcaraz* And now we’re back with pictures and everything, Alcaraz hitting a line to make 15-all then yanking Zverev in whamming a backhand pass down the line. A fine drop follows, but just as a much-needed straightforward hold looks on the cards, Zverev forces deuce after winning a net-exchange. And from there, Alcaraz secures the game, a clever overhead making advantage before another, of weapons-grade, sets up the forehand winner down the line. Alcaraz leaps about, noising up the crowd to noise up himself, and he’ll feel like he’s back in the contest. This is a fantastic match now.

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 2-2 Alcaraz Another easy hold for Zverev.

Zverev 3-6 6-2 1-2 Alcaraz* Now Alcaraz holds.

*Zverev 3-6 6-2 1-1 Alcaraz Alcaraz can’t find any consistency at the moment, good shots followed by bad, and he’s soon down 40-0, sticking in the last rally before slicing into the net. Zverev is dictating the rallies with weight of shot now; my computer switches itself off but he holds.


You May Also Like

More From Author