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CARLOS GRASPS THE TORCH FROM RAFA TO BECOME SPAIN’S NEW KING


There is a new Roland Garros champion not named Rafael Nadal. However, Spain still dominates the clay as Carlos Alcaraz claimed his maiden title in the French capital against a resilient Alexander Zverev. A fascinating contrast in styles had all the makings of an all-time classic, with Alcaraz’s flair and court coverage up against Zverev’s impeccable serve and strong baseline game. It was a shaky start for both competitors to concede a break each early on until the Spaniard pulled away to claim the opening set helped by touches of finesse at the net. Arguably the most laser-focused and concentrated since the start of the tournament, it was the polar opposite for Zverev who looked rattled while turning to his player box in anger. It felt as if significant dip in form was the only way for him to mount any hope of a comeback. A 40-0 lead in the first game on set two soon evaporated for Alcaraz to face three break point opportunities before holding serve after a 10-minute duration - signalling a change in confidence levels on both sides of the net. Zverev sensed a drop in the level of his opponent to take the initiative and be more aggressive, rewarded with a double-break and ultimately even the scores. His momentum carried through in the third set as he held to love for the first two service games. However, a loose game from the world No.4 meant Alcaraz broke to love and raced to a 5-2 lead. Topsy turvy swings of dominance are the only logical way to describe the encounter. Zverev found the energy to win five straight games and go within one set of a maiden Grand Slam crown. A couple of double faults and some untidy tennis from the 28-year-old German suddenly found himself 0-4 down, but a medical timeout called by Alcaraz set the tone for a lack of intensity and quality in the fourth set, eventually sealed 6-1 by the reigning Wimbledon champion to force a mouthwatering decider. Past criticisms about Zverev’s mental collapses in massive moments came to the forefront once more as two sloppy volleys at the net and a tentative double fault conceded the break after three games. A chance to immediately get it back on serve at 0-40 took a turn for the worse when an overrule on Alcaraz’s fault left Zverev pleading with the umpire in yet another implosion. A beyond ridiculous passing shot to help secure a double-break paved the way for Alcaraz to serve his way into the history books to claim his first French Open title 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 in four hours and 19 minutes of pure entertainment. It makes him the youngest male player in history to win on all three surfaces at Grand Slam level. ‘Victory belongs to the most tenacious’ etched in writing on Court Philippe-Chatrier perfectly epitomises Alcaraz’s journey over the past fortnight - overcoming a lingering forearm injury and clawing back from two sets to one down in both the semis and the final. “I’m really grateful to have the team I have, the people that I have … I call you a team, but it’s a family,” said Alcaraz. “Since I was a little kid I was running from school to put on the TV to watch this tournament. Now I am lifting the trophy in front of you all.”

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