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Analysis: Carlos Alcaraz wins maiden French Open after five-set spectacular

Analysis: Carlos Alcaraz wins maiden French Open after five-set spectacular
© Reuters
Sports Mole analyses Carlos Alcaraz's absorbing five-set win over Alexander Zverev in the French Open final as he conquers Roland-Garros for the first time.

Carlos Alcaraz stormed to French Open glory for the first time in his career with an engrossing five-set triumph over Alexander Zverev on Court-Philippe Chatrier in Sunday's men's final.

Already a hard-court champion from the 2022 US Open and grass Grand Slam winner at Wimbledon 2023, the 21-year-old completed the surfaces set with an extremely hard-fought 6-3 2-6 5-7 6-1 6-2 victory on the red clay.

Alcaraz was already the youngest man to reach major finals on all three surfaces and is therefore now the youngest male in history to become a Grand Slam champion on all three - and the first in the Open Era to win each of his first three on three different surfaces - while prolonging Zverev's agonising wait for a major title.

Here, Sports Mole analyses how Alcaraz managed to produce an exhilarating fightback to earn his historic Roland-Garros crown.

Set 1 - Alcaraz overcomes early nerves

The worst possible start that Zverev could have made, the German double-faulted on his first two points and was broken early doors on a scintillating Alcaraz forehand winner, but the Spaniard was also the victim of a shaky start as Zverev broke back immediately.

Both men soon began to settle, although it was Alcaraz who took the match by the scruff of the neck, flaunting his remarkable court coverage and returning position deep behind the baseline to break to love in the fifth game.

The Spaniard comfortably backed up the break before letting a 40-15 lead slip in the seventh, and even though the drop shot was not consistently coming off for the Wimbledon winner, his advantage never truly came under threat.

On his maiden set point, a ferocious cross-court forehand - his eighth winner of the opener - saw Alcaraz close out a first set in which Zverev only won 48% of points behind his first serve, and 38% behind his second.

Set 2 - Clinical Zverev fights back

Alexander Zverev reacts at the French Open on June 1, 2024© Reuters

The tone for the second was evident from the off, as Alcaraz was forced to save three break points for an opening hold, while Zverev was taken to deuce in his first service game thanks to a shanked forehand but got through with a smash.

The Spaniard was not the same force he was when closing out the opener, though, and in the fifth game, it was his turn to go wrong with a forehand shank, although his game at an inopportune time as Zverev broke for a 3-2 lead.

That pivotal moment came in the middle of an exceptional winning sequence for Zverev, who was going through the motions and reeled off some ferocious winners and earned the double break for a 5-2 lead on an Alcaraz double fault.

A trademark ace from the Italian Open champion brought up three chances to level the match, and he needed just one opportunity to level the scores with a passing forehand at the net, bringing the Roland-Garros final right back to square one.

Set 3 - Alcaraz falls behind and rages at umpire

After being slightly tetchy with his team amid the unforgiving wind conditions, Alcaraz produced one of his quintessential drop shots for an immediate hold, as both men came through their first two service games without too much trouble.

The Spaniard had some trouble in the fifth before ultimately closing it out with a brilliant forehand down the line, and after failing to win a point on the Zverev serve up until the sixth game, he stunned the German with a break to love for a 4-2 lead.

A combination of drop shots and powerful first serves helped Alcaraz beat away three break points to move one game away from taking the third set, but Zverev had other ideas, breaking back while the 21-year-old was serving for the set with a fabulous backhand winner.

Alcaraz slipped and lost his racquet as he tried in vain to reach Zverev's game-clinching shot, which coincidentally sparked a collapse in a playing sense, as Zverev broke again for a 6-5 lead before his youthful foe went off on chair umpire X for a lack of clay on the court.

Meanwhile, Zverev continued to produce a serve-and-volley masterclass while committing few unforced errors, and on his second set point after saving a break point, the German wore down Alcaraz's valiant defence to move ahead.

Set 4 - Alcaraz responds emphatically despite thigh issue

A final full of chaotic twists and turns continued in similar fashion in the second set, where Zverev ceded two break points on a shot that was called long late - much to his annoyance - and a whipped Alcaraz forehand gave the Spaniard a 2-0 lead.

The Wimbledon champion's fourth-set renaissance extended to an eye-catching double break for a 4-0 advantage, sealing it with a delicate drop shot, although Zverev quickly earned one back before the third seed received treatment on his left thigh.

Alcaraz's niggle had little impact on his resurgence, and he quickly regained his four-game lead as Zverev netted a forehand on break point to fall 1-5 down, giving his box a death stare in the aftermath.

Three chances to break back while Alcaraz was serving for the set came and went for Zverev, who looked utterly downcast after missing the first two, and as the fourth seed undercooked a drop shot on set point, the Roland-Garros final went the distance.

Set 5 - Alcaraz completes history-making victory

The extreme mental and physical exhaustion was evident for both men at the start of the championship-deciding set, where Alcaraz drew first blood in the third game thanks to a Zverev unforced error and double fault.

The third seed would back up the break, but not without a gargantuan effort, fighting back from 40-0 down and eventually holding with a dainty drop shot, although an apoplectic Zverev blurted out "there's no way" after a tight Alcaraz serve was called in at 15-40.

Both men batted away a break point apiece in their next holds, but in the seventh game, an exquisite backhand return from Alcaraz clipped the net tape, flew past Zverev - sporting an if-looks-could-kill face - and landed in for three break points.

The Spaniard held his hand up in sympathy before giving himself the chance to serve for the championship by striking the line with a lovely forehand winner, and on his first championship point, Alcaraz witnessed Zverev return one of his vicious forehands into the net before collapsing onto the dirt in euphoria.

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