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Carlos Alcaraz outlasts Alexander Zverev in French Open final for third Slam

Carlos Alcaraz holds the trophy after winning the French Open men’s singles against Alexander Zverev on Sunday at Roland Garros in Paris.  (Tribune News Service)
By Ava Wallace Washington Post

The French Open men’s draw began as more of an open contest than it had been in 20 years. Rafael Nadal was set to play what was expected to be his last turn at Roland Garros and lost in the first round. Novak Djokovic arrived in Paris trying to right his most disappointing start to a tennis season in years but withdrew because of an injury before the quarterfinals. That left a handful of promising young hopefuls vying to become the first new French Open champion since Djokovic won it for the first time in 2016.

On Sunday in Paris, Carlos Alcaraz emerged from that fray and made what once felt unpredictable seem obvious.

With a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Germany’s Alexander Zverev, Alcaraz won his third Grand Slam title and made history.

Just 21 years old, he is the first male player to win his first three Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces, a distinction that reinforces the Spaniard’s athleticism and adaptability as well as the stunning variation in his game. His other Grand Slams came at Wimbledon in 2023 and the U.S. Open in 2022.

Just six other men have won Grand Slam titles on all three surfaces: Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Mats Wilander. Alcaraz is the only one to do so before turning 22.

But the third-seeded Alcaraz’s triumph over the fourth-seeded Zverev may have mattered most, at least to the one holding the trophy, for the one way in which Alcaraz was not a first: As Nadal winds down his career with a record 14 French Open titles, Alcaraz made sure Spanish flags continued to fly in the stands high above the red clay Sunday. He is the seventh Spanish man to win at Roland Garros since the start of the open era in 1968.

He did so in a four-hour, 19-minute battle that started nervously and featured dramatic swings of momentum thanks to uncharacteristic errors from both players.

Both Alcaraz and his 27-year-old opponent were understandably tight. Both were competing in their first French Open final, and both had particularly personal stakes. Alcaraz wanted to carry on the Spanish tradition in Paris, and Zverev, a serious contender playing the best clay-court tennis of his career at the tournament’s outset, yearned to heal a pair of deep scars. One was from the haunting U.S. Open final he lost to Dominic Thiem in 2020, where he was two points away from clinching the match, and the other was from 2022, when he tore three ligaments in his right ankle during a semifinal match against Nadal and needed to be wheeled off the court.

He also had been playing at Roland Garros under the cloud of a domestic abuse trial that concluded Friday in Germany. Zverev and his former partner, who accused him of physically abusing her during an argument in 2020, reached an out-of-court settlement “in order to shorten the process especially in the interest of the child they have together,” Zverev’s lawyers told Reuters in a statement, which became public hours ahead of his semifinal match.

Zverev told reporters in Paris after that he was finished discussing the matter.

He walked on court Sunday to play his first Grand Slam final since his letdown in New York and opened the match with a pair of double faults.

He made up for the flubs later by storming back from 2-5 down in the third set to rattle off five straight games and take a two-sets-to-one lead.

But Alcaraz came on strong in the fourth set. His calling card is his kaleidoscopic game, and he brought out every tool in his kit against Zverev, altering the height and speed of his groundstrokes, mixing in sharply angled volleys and precisely timed approach shots with singing forehands. His signature drop shot – a perfect mix of cheek and skill – spun out of Zverev’s reach again and again.

Alcaraz then chose one dominant tactic in the fifth set: unrelenting aggression. The Spaniard pressed constantly and Zverev served a double fault in the third game then sent a forehand long to give Alcaraz the break and a 2-1 lead. He felt his power fully then, fighting back from 0-40 in the next game to save four break points and take a 3-1 lead with – what else? – a drop-shot winner.

The crowd thundered, and for the first time in hours, Alcaraz looked fully in command as he held his finger to his ear and asked for more noise. He got it, then broke Zverev at love to take a 5-2 lead and serve out the match.

He laid on the clay when he won, smearing his shirt with red before running to hug his family and team, including his coach, the 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. Together they celebrated the obvious: The age of Alcaraz is just beginning.

Gauff and Siniakova win doubles title

Coco Gauff won her first Grand Slam doubles trophy and Katerina Siniakova picked up her ninth when the pair beat Italians Jasmine Paolini and Sara Errani 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 Sunday at Roland Garros.

It was Gauff’s third try at a doubles trophy after losing in the finals of Roland Garros in 2022 and at the U.S. Open in 2021.

“Doubles I definitely didn’t think it would happen to me, to be frank,” Gauff said. “I think that was, like, one of the few times in my life after I lost the first two finals, I thought, ‘Well, OK, I reached that point, maybe I should focus on singles.’ … It’s funny how life teaches you those lessons that sometimes it’s better just to be relaxed and the good things will happen.”

Partnering with Siniakova didn’t hurt her chances, either. The 28-year-old Czech woman owns a career grand slam in doubles, having won a trophy at each of the four Grand Slam tournaments at least once, and won the Australian Open doubles trophy in January. She and Gauff, 20, teamed up for the first time in Paris on short notice after Gauff’s usual partner, the American Jessica Pegula, withdrew from the tournament with an injury.

It was the second final Paolini lost this weekend after losing the singles title to Iga Swiatek on Saturday.