Roland-Garros: Alcaraz enters the legend

Nadal had not managed to beat this Zverev in the first round, probably the best we have ever seen, but Alcaraz managed to do so at the end of a tight and tense final, where the stakes were high. maximum pressure on almost all the actions of the two actors. This Roland-Garros final was the first in 2005 – with Nadal and Puerta – to have to crown a player in Paris for the first time.

At the end of 4h19 of a fight where both men had to overcome their nerves, their exhaustion and a series of contradictory emotions before even thinking about their opponent, Alcaraz confirmed that he was a beast in terms of length. five sets. His 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory is his tenth in eleven matches over this long period in major tournaments.

Carlos Alcaraz, Wimbledon 2023
Carlos Alcaraz, Wimbledon 2023 | © Panoramic

Alcaraz masters over the distance of five sets

Over this distance, even Djokovic failed to impose his will on him in the Wimbledon final. Even Sinner, the man of the year, world number one as of Monday, did not succeed in the semi-final. Zverev, who also won ten of his eleven matches in five sets over the distance at Roland-Garros, is added to the list.

The world number 4 appeared to pay for his more than 19 hours and 27 minutes on court during the six matches, during the fifth set – he came within two games of defeat against Griekspoor and three points against Rune. Since the matches are timed, he is the Roland-Garros finalist who spent the most time on court to qualify.

It is almost difficult to talk about tennis at the end of this final which, by its mutual excitement, sometimes recalled the final of the US Open 2020 lost by Zverev against Dominic Thiem. Neither Alcaraz nor Zverev played at their best outside of a few points. Alcaraz chose his moments, his fifth set having been the densest of his game in winning shots and climbs, as in the semi-final.

And if each of the two had their periods where they were rather rewarded for their aggressiveness, in the end it was the one who had the broadest palette, had the most courage and luck who won the meeting.

The turning point of the match probably took place at 2-1 Alcaraz in the fifth set. The Spaniard had just broken, but Zverev, at 0-40, saw himself return to 2-2. At 15-40, Alcaraz's second ball was called a foul, an announcement corrected by chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein, in agreement with the visual impression by most of the people with whom we spoke (the line seems to have been whitened) but in contradiction with the hawk eye which indicates a bullet released by a millimeter. Alcaraz saved four break points, led 3-1, and was able to maintain – and even increase – his lead until converting his first match point on his serve.

Twice, Alcaraz conceded a 5-0 in the game, which cost him both sets. The first time it went from 2-1 in his favor to 6-2 Zverev in the second set. The second time, from 5-2 for him to 7-5 against him in the third. Any other player would have lost their footing in the face of such series in such a context. Injured in the arm throughout the season on gravel – he skipped Rome – Alcaraz won the second title of his season after Indian Wells.

Among all the components of the panoply of champions, he reinforced two during this Roland-Garros: the ability to win in a state far from his best level, and an extraordinary speed of learning. Six months ago in Turin, completely dismantled by Novak Djokovic in the semi-final, he was coming to grips with the demands of his status and was still dragging this spleen into Melbourne, at the Australian Open, where he had been dismissed by… Alexander Zverev.

The German, returned to his best level two years after his serious ankle injury on this Chatrier court, remains probably the best active player not to have lifted a major trophy. Alcaraz was barely an adult when he left this possible fate behind him. The kid from Murcia has a much bigger one. Here he is ahead of Nadal's Grand Slam times.

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