Spaniard is youngest man to win Slam on three different surfaces

Another marathon effort, another major triumph in the young career of Carlos Alcaraz.

The third seed on Sunday outlasted Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 to lift the trophy at Roland Garros. With his four-hour, 19-minute win in Paris, the 21-year-old Alcaraz became the first champion at the clay-court major to win a semi-final and final each in five sets since Rod Laver in 1962.

Just as he did against Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals, Alcaraz kept cool after falling two-sets-to-one behind to secure a gritty victory against Zverev. The Spaniard, who arrived at Roland Garros having not competed for three weeks due to a right arm injury, raised his level to win 12 of the final 15 games and secure a major crown for the third consecutive season.

"It has been incredible work," said Alcaraz to his team at the trophy ceremony. "The last month we were struggling a lot with the injury. Looking back to Madrid, I didn't feel well. The next week there were a lot of doubts and then coming here and practising not too much. I am really grateful to have the team that I have and the people I have around.

"I know that everyone in my team is giving their heart just to make me improve as a player and a person. To grow up. So I am really grateful and I call you a team, but it is a family."

Carlos Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz celebrates on match point after clinching the title at Roland Garros. Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With his victory, Alcaraz became the youngest man to win a Grand Slam on three different surfaces after his triumphs on hard courts at the 2022 US Open and grass at 2023 Wimbledon. He is now 11-1 in five-set matches, with his only loss coming against Matteo Berrettini at the 2022 Australian Open.

Although Alcaraz did not consistently produce the sort of brilliant, dazzling tennis that he has become renowned for against Zverev, he was clinical under pressure to overhaul the German and maintain his perfect record in Grand Slam finals.

Both players tried to mix up their play to keep their opponent on his toes, but it was Alcaraz’s ability to produce at big moments that ultimately proved crucial. The Spaniard converted nine of 16 break points he earned, while Zverev took advantage of just six of his 23 chances according to Infosys Stats.

"Congratulations Carlos. Third Grand Slam, 21 years old. It's incredible," said Zverev. "You won three different ones. You're already a Hall of Famer and you're only 21 years old." 

A pivotal moment in the deciding set came with Alcaraz serving at 2-1, 15/40. The Spaniard sent down a second serve that was called out, but the chair umpire checked the mark and called it in. After nearly double-faulting to relinquish serve, Alcaraz went on to hold serve and consolidate his early fifth-set service break.

"I want to congratulate Sascha for a great beginning of this year, a great level of tennis, a great tournament," said Alcaraz to Zverev, who is second in the PIF ATP Live Race To Turin. "It is unbelievable the level that you are playing and the level of work you are putting in every day. I know you give your heart every day you step on the court.

"I think that I know everything you have been through in the past years with the injury on this court, the work that you put in to today being here in the final of this tournament. It has been an unbelievable journey since then. I am pretty sure you will have the opportunities to win slams or this tournament very, very soon."

Alcaraz, who is now 52-10 in Grand Slam matches, is the seventh Spaniard to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires. That list includes his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who won the Paris major in 2003. The 21-year-old will on Monday rise to World No. 2 behind his great rival Sinner, who will top the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time. 

Alcaraz and Zverev's ability to stay the course physically was tested throughout the match. Zverev, the No. 4 in the PIF ATP Rankings, spent 19 hours and 27 minutes on court en route to Sunday’s clash, the longest road to a Roland Garros final since the start of recorded match times in 1991. Yet even in defeat, the German often appeared the fresher of the two players, with Alcaraz drinking pickle juice during changeovers to ward off cramp and receiving treatment to his thigh at 4-1 in the fourth set.

Alcaraz clinched the opening set by locking in on return after a cagey start in which both players dropped their opening service game. Zverev began his second major final by serving back-to-back double faults, prompting him to immediately change his racquet. He was nonetheless broken three times in the opening set, and also had to fend off two break points to hold in another of his service games at 2-4.

Despite falling behind, Zverev kept his focus, and an improved serving performance from the fourth seed helped him halt Alcaraz's charge on return. The German landed 83 per cent (20/24) of his first serves in the second set and won 80 per cent (16/20) of those points.

After winning five straight games to claim the second set, Zverev then turned the final further on its head by reeling off another five consecutive games to claim the third. Alcaraz had served for the set at 5-2, but he soon found himself two-sets-to-one down as Zverev found another hot streak.

Despite his opponent being just one set away from victory, Alcaraz did not panic. He made a rapid start to the fourth set by winning the opening four games, before saving all five break points he faced in the decider to clinch his win.