Tennis, French Open: Alcaraz hopes to continue Spanish legacy, as Zverev aims for first Major


Carlos Alcaraz says he is hoping to join the long list of Spanish French Open champions when he bids to become the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all three surfaces in the Roland Garros 2024 final against Alexander Zverev on Sunday.

The 21-year-old defeated Novak Djokovic to win Wimbledon last year and also lifted the US Open trophy as a teenager in 2022.

Alcaraz downed incoming world No 1 Jannik Sinner in five sets in the semi-finals and will be a slight favourite against Zverev, who is still to win a Grand Slam tournament.

He is aiming to emulate his childhood hero and 14-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal – who won his first French Open when Alcaraz was only two years old – and his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, by lifting the trophy.

“I have a special feeling at this tournament, because I remember when I finish school I’m running to my home just to put the TV on and watch the matches here in the French Open,” Alcaraz said.

“I watched a lot of matches. Of course Rafa Nadal dominating this tournament for, let’s say, 14-15 years. It’s something unbelievable.

“I wanted to put my name on that list of the Spanish players who won this tournament. Not only Rafa. Ferrero, [Carlos] Moya, [Albert] Costa, a lot of Spanish players, legends from our sport that won this tournament. I really want to put my name on that list, as well.”

Alcaraz has been widely tipped as one of the successors to the reigns of Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer at the top of men’s tennis since he broke onto the scene as a teenager.

He is comfortably living up to that mantle.

Sunday will see the first new winner of the title since Djokovic in 2016, and it will be the first showpiece match in Paris with two first-time finalists since Nadal won his first crown against Mariano Puerta in 2005.

Alcaraz has won both of his previous Slam finals – one more and he will be the youngest man to win major events on clay, grass and hard courts.

Victory over Zverev would leave the Spanish sensation heading to the Australian Open next year with the chance to complete the career Grand Slam at a younger age than Federer was when he won his first Slam event.

“I always wanted to be one of the best players in the world,” he said.

“If I want to be one of the best players in the world, I have to be a good player in every surface, like Roger did, Novak, Rafa, [Andy] Murray. The best players in the world had success in every surface.

“So I consider myself a player who adapts very well his style in every surface. And, well, I grew up playing on clay but I feel more comfortable playing on hard court, for example.

“I think my game suits very well to the clay, to clay season, to the clay court, as well.”

Zverev hoping to end years of hurt

Zverev was once regarded as the biggest threat to the dominance of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer, but is now 27 and still chasing a first Grand Slam title.

The world No 4 is into his first major final since an agonising defeat by Dominic Thiem at the 2020 US Open, when he led by two sets and a break before falling apart.

“I was not ready then to win my first Grand Slam final,” said Zverev, who has also lost in six Slam semi-finals.

“I’m definitely not a kid any more, I’m a little older. If not now, then when?”

The German arrived at the tournament under the cloud of a court case in Berlin over allegations he assaulted an ex-girlfriend.

The case was dropped after a settlement was agreed hours before his semi-final win over Casper Ruud, who was struggling with illness.

He was accused of “briefly” choking former partner Brenda Patea “with both hands” in May 2020, according to the court.

As part of the settlement, Zverev had agreed to pay 200,000 euros ($217,000), with most of it going into state coffers and the remainder to a fund for charitable organisations, a court spokeswoman said.

He reacted angrily when asked by a reporter if he was disappointed the case was dropped and he could not clear his name in court.

“They’re not going to drop the case if you’re guilty at the end of the day,” Zverev said, who had already been fined 450,000 euros in the same case. “I don’t know what translations you have, but that’s what it means.

“We move on. I never ever want to hear another question about the subject again. That goes out to everybody.”

Zverev will have high hopes of making headlines with a Grand Slam title – he holds a 5-4 winning record over Alcaraz heading into Sunday’s intriguing final.

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