Alcaraz Wins First Roland-Garros Title With His Head And Heart

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 9, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 4 Alexander Zverev met in the Roland-Garros final on Sunday to decide this year’s men’s singles champion. It was the first final between two players each in pursuit of their first Roland Garros title since 2016, when Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray.

The Alcaraz-Zverev match-up guaranteed there would be a first-time Roland-Garros champion for the first time in eight years. It was also the first final between two first-time Roland-Garros finalists since 2005, when Rafael Nadal won the first of his record 14 French Open titles by defeating Mariano Puerta. That was guaranteed after Nadal went out in the first round to Zverev and Djokovic withdrew prior to his quarterfinal-round match against No. 7 seed Casper Ruud.

As it happened, in only the second five-set men’s final in 20 years at Roland-Garros – the first being Djokovic over Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2021 – Alcaraz defeated Zverev, 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, in four hours and 19 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier, filled to capacity, in his first Roland-Garros final. He became the first Paris champion to win both a semifinal and final each in five sets since Rod Laver in 1962.

Alcaraz, who was appearing in his third major final, kept his perfect record in finals at this level after winning the 2022 US Open and 2023 Wimbledon Championships. He’s now the seventh and youngest player to capture Grand Slam titles on all three surfaces.

The Spaniard from Murcia also joined Nadal as the only players to lift the Roland Garros title before turning 22 since 2000 (Nadal did it in 2005, 2006 and 2007). He is also the seventh player from Spain to win the Roland-Garros men’s title. His coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, won the title in 2003, when Alcaraz was just one month old.

Alcaraz received the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy from six-time Roland-Garros champion Bjorn Borg.

Two years ago in Paris, Zverev beat Alcaraz in a quarterfinal match decided by a close fourth-set tie-break. Before Sunday, they had met five times since, most recently at Indian Wells in February won in a 6-3, 6-1 rout by Alcaraz. The German No. 1 brought a 5-4 head-to-head advantage into Sunday’s title match played under partly-cloudy – and at times windy – conditions but with a comfortable temperature of 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit). This time, Alcaraz would win and deny Zverev of winning a Grand Slam title for the first time.

“It has been incredible work,” Alcaraz said during 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.”

Alcaraz added: “Running when I finished school to put the TV on, just to watch the tournament on TV, and now I’m lifting the trophy in front of all of you.”

Zverev, 27, offered his congratulations to Alcaraz. “Congratulations Carlos. Third Grand Slam, 21 years old. It’s incredible,” Zverev said. “You won three different ones. You’re already a Hall of Famer and you’re only 21 years old.”

Looking back, Alcaraz won the 43-minute opening set 6-3 with a forehand winner to culminate a nifty six-shot rally. The Spaniard broke Zverev three times in the opener, more times than he did in four sets when he lost to Zverev at the Australian Open in January.

Then, Alcaraz gained a huge hold to open the second set. In an 11-minute 18-point game, he saved three break points and won the game with a seventh-shot forehand winner. Although pressured, Zverev steadied himself and went up a break at 3-2 and made it a double break two games later when Alcaraz served his third double fault. A big serving game by Zverev, with his third ace and his 12th winner, won the set 6-2 to even the final at a set apiece. The German won 12 of the last 16 points.

As the third set unfolded with Alcaraz ahead 3-2 and on serve, he broke Zverev for a 4-2 advantage. The crowd became engaged and showed their support for both competitors as Alcaraz saved three break points while trying to consolidate the break and held serve to end a 12-point game for 5-2 after Zverev netted a fourth-shot backhand while coming into the net.

However, Zverev wasn’t ready to concede the set. He held his serve, then broke Alcaraz for the fourth time with an authoritative backhand passing shot winner to stay alive. Next, Zverev held at love with an ace and it was 5-all. Then, Zverev broke to win his fourth straight game and it became 6-5 with the German serving for the set. Zverev gained a set point with his eighth ace, but Alcaraz gained deuce after winning a 17-shot rally.

Soon, on his second set point, Zverev won a 20-shot rally that ended when Alcaraz netted a forehand from deep in the right corner, his 39th unforced error. Zverev won the set 7-5 after being down 2-5. He won five straight games to close out the third set. After two hours and 40 minutes, Zverev held a two sets-to-one lead and needing to win just one more set for the title.

However, Alcaraz came roaring back with a pair of love holds bookending his fifth break of Zverev for a 3-0 advantage to begin the fourth set. He gained a double-break 4-0 lead after hitting a backhand drop-shot winner. Then, after being broken by Zverev, Alcaraz took a medical time out to have his already-wrapped left thigh worked on and proceeded to break Zverev’s serve for a 5-1 lead. He closed out the set by winning it 6-1 after Zverev netted a backhand return. It was all even, two sets each, and anyone’s guess whom would prevail and win their first Roland-Garros title.

In the decider, Alcaraz got the first break to push ahead 2-1 after three hours and 40 minutes of measured power and controlled aggression – and there were some disciplined rallies, too. He saved four break points during an 11-minute, 10-point fourth game to consolidate the break for a 3-1 lead, putting him three games away from his third Grand Slam crown. Then, Zverev saved a break point with a backhand angle winner to stay close as the title match reached four hours and counting.

Soon, Alcaraz saved a break point and won a 12-point game, holding for a 4-2 lead. Then, he gained a double-break advantage by winning at love with a nifty fourth-shot forehand winner that dazed Zverev. Serving for the championship, ahead 5-2, Alcaraz gained a championship point at 40-15, and won after Zverev weakly hit a fourth-shot return into the net.

Alcaraz immediately fell to the clay and raised his arms in celebration – beaming a big smile. Then, after meeting the fallen Zverev at the net, he raced into the stands to celebrate with his team and his family.

“I always wanted to be one of the best players in the world,” Alcaraz said in one of his news conferences this week. “If I want to be one of the best players in the world, I have to be a good player on every surface, like Roger [Federer] did, Novak [Djokovic], Rafa [Nadal], [Andy] Murray.”

By the end of Sunday’s championship match, Alcaraz showed himself to be a worthy champion — one who won with both his head and his heart.

Last-minute team Gauff and Siniakova win women’s doubles title

Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova came together as a last-minute pairing for the Roland-Garros women’s doubles competition. A fortnight later, the fifth-seeded American/Czech duo have won their first title together.

On Sunday, Gauff and Siniakova defeated Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in one hour and 47 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The major title win was the first in doubles for Gauff (to go with her 2023 US Open singles crown) and the eighth for Siniakova, who won her first seven doubles crowns with fellow Czech Barbora Krejcikova.

In a match that included nine service breaks, Gauff was the only player to not lose serve in the title match.

Due to injuries to their expected partners – Gauff has long partnered with Jessica Pegula and Siniakova this season with Storm Hunter and Taylor Townsend – Gauff and Siniakova came together, urged by Townsend, and lost only one set en route to the title.

We decided two days before the tournament started to play together – it was very last minute,” Gauff said during the trophy ceremony. “I wasn’t planning to play doubles, so I thank Katerina for asking me to play.

“Congratulations to Sara and Jasmime on an incredible tournament. You guys are a really tough team. We played against each other in Rome and hopefully we can play against each other in the Olympics. It would be another great battle.”

Added Siniakova: “I’m just happy I could play another final here and I think we played some amazing matches. It’s so nice to play here. I’ve enjoyed every moment. … Coco, thank you for playing. You’re an amazing player. I’m happy we could play these two weeks [together] and hopefully we can play some more matches.”

It was the second final in two days for Paolini, who finished runner-up to Iga Swiatek in singles on Saturday. She was seeking her first Grand Slam doubles title, while Errani, a five-time major champion, was a Roland-Garros finalist from 2012-14 with Roberta Vinci.

Around Roland-Garros

In the men’s wheelchair singles on Saturday, 18-year-old No. 2 seed Tokito Oda of Japan successfully defended his title with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 3 seed Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina.

“Last year I didn’t think I’m gonna win again this year,” Oda said, quoted by the Roland-Garros website. “It’s really amazing, because this tournament is so special for me, a special place, because this is first title of Grand Slam for me, for my career.”

Oda has now won four of the five last singles majors and has his sights set on the upcoming Paris Paralympics.

“When I saw wheelchair tennis for first time, that was Paralympics of Shingo (Kunieda). And then I thought I want to be in this place,” Oda said. “My first time to play in Paralympics, it will be here. I’m just so just excited.”

By the numbers

Alexander Zverev spent 19 hours and 27 minutes on the court to reach Sunday’s title match. It’s the longest road to the Roland-Garros men’s final since recorded times began in 1991. The next highest time is 18 hours and 8 minutes by Rafael Nadal in 2022.

Iga Swiatek‘s Roland-Garros three-peat was the 10th by a woman in the Open Era. There has been one four-peat, achieved by Chris Evert at the US Open from 1975-78.

Katerina Siniakova, who won the women’s doubles title with Coco Gauff, has completed the career doubles Grand Slam by winning titles at Australian Open (2022, 2023), Roland Garros (2018, 2021, 2024), Wimbledon (2018, 2022) and US Open (2022).

“Quotable …”

• “It means a lot. This tournament has been pretty surreal with the second round, and then I was able to get my game better and better every match.

“I’m really proud of myself, because the expectations obviously have been pretty high from the outside. Pressure, as well. I’m happy that I just went for it and I was ready to deal with all of this.”

Iga Swiatek, during her post-match news conference after winning her third straight Roland-Garros title and fourth in five years.

• “I don’t know where this journey is going to – I don’t know how to say – take me. But I’m curious to discover that. I’m trying to step on court every day and to give my 100 percent. Let’s see what the future will bring to me.”

Jasmine Paolini, during her post-match news conference following Saturday’s women’s singles final. Paolini will rise from No. 15 to No. 7 when the WTA Rankings are updated on Monday.