PARIS — No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev returned to the French Open semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7) win over Carlos Alcaraz on Tuesday, putting end to the Spanish 19 The moving journey of a child under one year old at Roland Garros.
Zverev, a 25-year-old German, also stifled Alcaraz’s strong comeback in this quarter-final. Zverev, beaten by Alcaraz in the Madrid Open final before Roland Garros, was the most consistent and convincing player for nearly three sets. “I think letting him go forward in the game and letting him gain confidence was going to be a very difficult thing for me to come back to,” Zverev said.
But Alcaraz, on the verge of being quickly eliminated, raised their level. As usual, it was quite a spectacle, as he produced tricky drop shots, bold returns, reflective volleys and game-winning forehands that left the 6-foot-6 Zverev staring wistfully at the ball marks on the red clay court.
Alcaraz, like top seed Novak Djokovic, is part tennis player, part gymnast. And with a flurry of brilliant, acrobatic tennis, Alcaraz, the No. 6 seed, won the third set. With another push late in the fourth set, he broke Zverev’s serve as he served for the match at 5-4. This all-court duel, at this point, was well worthy of a tiebreaker, and both men produced excellence under duress but also cracked.
Alcaraz had a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker and failed to convert it when he made an unforced error with his backhand in the top of the net. Zverev missed his backhand on his first match point in the tiebreaker.
It was now 7-7 and the chants of “Carlos, Carlos” only got louder. But Zverev, with the crowd and the flow against him, went from strength to strength, winning the next two points to close the game. He capped off the victory with a daring backhand return down the line that Alcaraz, one of the fastest men in tennis, couldn’t reach.
“It’s a shot that I like, it’s true,” said Zverev, smiling throughout his post-match press conference, which he began by raising both arms in triumph. .
“I’ve done that a lot in my career,” he said of his game-winning backhand. “But I had to win the game myself, I felt I was either going to miss it by a country mile or hit a winner, and I hit a winner, which I’m very happy with.”
Alcaraz, in the middle of a decisive season, has only played four Grand Slam tournaments.
“I leave the court, I leave the tournament with my head very high,” he said. “I fight until the last ball. I fought until the last second of the game and I’m proud of it.
But the best-of-five-set format remains a different kind of challenge than the best-of-three-set variety played on the regular tour. For now, Alcaraz’s best results in major tournaments are the quarter-finals at the US Open last year and now in Paris.
“I didn’t start well, and at this level, quarter-final of a Grand Slam, you are playing against the best players in the world, so you have to start the game better than I did today” , said Alcaraz. “I have to follow the lesson. I mean, I have to improve for the next Grand Slam or the next matches. But I would say that I am not far from reaching a semi-final or winning a Grand Slam.
Zverev, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros last year, clearly felt the odds were stacked against him on Tuesday in light of recent results at Alcaraz. Alcaraz had won the Barcelona and Madrid titles back-to-back on red clay and were on their way back to Roland Garros after saving a match point against fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Viñolas in the second round.
“I knew I had to play my best tennis today from the start, and I’m glad I did,” Zverev said. “Obviously he kept coming back. He’s an amazing player. I told him at the net, he’s going to win this tournament many times, not just once, and I just hope I can win it before it starts. fight all of us, and we won’t stand a chance.
Zverev, despite his strong performance (and obvious relief) on Tuesday, is still a long way from winning his first Grand Slam singles title. In the semi-finals he will face the winner of Tuesday’s second game: a night session between Djokovic and fifth seed Rafael Nadal, who has won the French Open a record 13 times.
“It’s not really easier from here,” said Zverev, still elated. “But I’ve often said, I’m no longer 20 or 21; I am 25. I’m at the stage where I want to win, I’m also at the stage where I’m supposed to win.