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Lessons Learned: Alcaraz Defeats Zverev In Scintillating French Open Final

Carlos Alcaraz adds another chapter to his increasingly impressive career resume and wins his third slam at a third location by beating Sascha Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2. The five-setter lasted over four hours and was one of the most tight and entertaining French Open finals in recent memory. I'll break down why the match went the way it did, and what it means for the tennis landscape.


The Matchup Dynamics

While Alcaraz's career accolades have started to eclipse Zverev's, their head-to-head has been surprisingly even - Zverev came in leading 5-4, and up 2-1 in slams. Zverev's powerful and consistent first serve is a serious weapon, and while on clay, it doesn't lead to as many aces (although he out-aced Carlos 8-3 in the final), it allows him to set up serve-plus-one plays effectively, especially with as strong of a backhand as he has.


Alcaraz's strength lies in his explosive groundstrokes, variety, and inventiveness. It's extremely difficult to predict what he's going to do in a rally, and even if you can, his power and ability to generate amazing angles will likely make such predictions meaningless. He's fearless in terms of coming in and going for lower-probability plays, and that aggression also makes him very difficult to scheme against.


Why Alcaraz Won

The biggest reason, arguably, that Alcaraz came through in the end was his aggression. On paper, with 56 unforced errors, a player really shouldn't be winning a grand slam final against a player of Sascha's caliber. Actually watching the match tells a different story, one of an Alcaraz who prioritized deep, powerful, well-placed shots that were difficult to return - there's a reason he also had 52 winners. Fortune favors the brave for a reason.


His variety also threw Zverev off considerably. Despite not having the best serve, both in terms of placement and power, he used his serve well as a setup for points and was very aggressive in terms of coming to the net. The match had a dizzying array of lobs, slices, squash shots, and other shots that only Carlos can play consistently right now, that were nearly impossible to scheme for.


He also played the big moments incredibly well, saving 17 of the 23 break points he faced, and converted a ridiculous 9 of 16 of his own break point chances. His resolve, especially for his age, has been a big talking point among the tennis community, and today, he demonstrated it in spades.


Why Zverev Lost

While some aspects of the outcome simply boiled down to Alcaraz being brilliant, there's a lot that Zverev could have done better to clinch his first slam. While Alcaraz deserves to be lauded for his fearlessness, Zverev absolutely could have done more to take control of points. He hit too many rally shots, created openings for Alcaraz and didn't do nearly enough to capitalize on his serving (which at 73% first serves, was actually excellent).


To beat the new big three of Sinner, Alcaraz, and Medvedev, Sascha will have to be better at the net. For someone with his combination of height, serve capability, and movement, his serve-and-volley game is actually on the weaker side. He doesn't place or vary his volleys well and today, misses at the net were a huge issue, in fact, the first break he conceded in the fifth came largely courtesy of two. The same is true of overheads - those two shots need to improve drastically for Zverev to optimize his game.


Finally, Zverev just needs to be more clutch. He allowed Carlos to convert over half of his break opportunities and wasted a lot of return games that he played quite well by not converting his break points. This has been a frequent issue for Zverev in big matches, and in fact, in both of Zverev's grand slam finals losses, he had set leads, 2-0 against Theim and 2-1 against Alcaraz, and couldn't capitalize.


What Does This Mean For Their Respective Legacies?

Carlitos is compiling quite the resume at only 21. He has three slams now, at three different locations. He was the youngest to ever take the number-one ranking and increased his ranking to two after this final. He has a total of 14 titles, and 8 of them (3 slams, 5 masters 1000) are "big titles", as the tennis community dubs them.


He still has so much left to potentially accomplish and so much time to do it. He's shockingly just an Australian Open away from a career grand slam, and theoretically, with the Olympics and the 2025 Australian Open happening before he turns 22, could accomplish a golden slam at the youngest age ever. Simply put, if he can stay healthy and consistent, he's putting himself on a track for an all-time legacy.


Zverev adds a second slam final to a resume that is a lot gaudier than people think. He has 22 titles, 6 masters titles, 2 ATP Finals titles, and an Olympic gold. In short, far too good of a resume for someone who doesn't have a slam. As a 27-year-old, Zverev's still got time to turn it around, but with the emergences of Alcaraz and Sinner, he'll want to do it sooner than later to not start to join the bittersweet debate of best non-slam-winner of all time.


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