The French Open menโ€™s draw was more wide open than it had been in 20 years. Rafael Nadal was set to take 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 season in years but withdrew before the quarterfinals because of a knee injury. That left a handful of promising young hopefuls vying to become the first new French Open champion since Djokovic in 2016.

On Sunday in Paris, Carlos Alcaraz emerged from the fray and made what once felt unpredictable seem obvious. With a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Germanyโ€™s Alexander Zverev, Alcaraz won his third Grand Slam title and made history.

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

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

But the third-seeded Alcarazโ€™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.

โ€œKnowing all the Spanish players who have won this tournament and be able to put my name on that amazing list is something unbelievable,โ€ Alcaraz said. โ€œI dream about being in this position since I started playing tennis, since I was 5, 6 years old.โ€

He won in a 4-hour 19-minute battle that started nervily 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, who was playing the best clay-court tennis of his career at the tournamentโ€™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, when 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 against Nadal and had to be wheeled off the court.

โ€œI felt like this Grand Slam final I did everything I could,โ€ Zverev said. โ€œAt the U.S. Open, I kind of gave it away myself. Itโ€™s a bit different.โ€

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 a settlement โ€œto shorten the process especially in the interest of the child they have together,โ€ Zverevโ€™s lawyers told Reuters in a statement, a development that became public hours ahead of his semifinal match. Zverev told reporters in Paris that he was done discussing the matter.

He walked on the court Sunday to play his first Grand Slam final since his letdown in New York โ€” and opened 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, 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 โ€” a perfect mix of cheek and skill โ€” spun out of Zverevโ€™s reach again and again.

โ€œIโ€™m trying on that moment just to be aggressive, just to go for it, play my style, go to the net, drop shots, hitting big shots,โ€ Alcaraz said. โ€œ… It doesnโ€™t matter if I lose, it doesnโ€™t matter if I miss it, because when I go for it, the feelings are much better if I go defensive and lose it anyway.โ€

Alcaraz chose one tactic in the fifth set: unrelenting aggression.

โ€œI know that when Iโ€™m playing a fifth set you have to give everything and you have to give your heart. I mean, in those moments, itโ€™s where the top players give their best tennis,โ€ Alcaraz said. โ€œAs I said many times, I wanted to be one of the best tennis players in the world, so I have to give an extra [effort] in those moments in the fifth set; I have to show the opponent that I am fresh, like we are playing the first game of the match.โ€

The Spaniard pressed constantly, and the two-five setters that Zverev won en route to the final appeared to be catching up with him.

โ€œI lost focus, and on my serve I didnโ€™t get the power from my legs anymore, which is weird,โ€ Zverev said. โ€œNormally, I do not get tired. I donโ€™t cramp. I donโ€™t get tired normally. But โ€ฆ against Carlos, itโ€™s a different intensity, so maybe that was the case a bit.โ€

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 take a 3-1 lead with โ€” what else? โ€” 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 to take a 5-2 lead and serve out the match.

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

Gauff, Siniakova win doubles title

Coco Gauff won her first Grand Slam doubles trophy and Katerina Siniakova picked up her eighth when they beat Italians Jasmine Paolini and Sara Errani, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3. It was Gauffโ€™s third try at a doubles trophy; she lost in the finals at Roland Garros in 2022 and the U.S. Open in 2021.

โ€œDoubles I definitely didnโ€™t think it would happen to me, to be frank,โ€ Gauff said. โ€œI think that was, like, one of the few times in my life after I lost the first two finals, I thought, โ€˜Well, okay, I reached that point; maybe I should focus on singles.โ€™ โ€ฆ Itโ€™s funny how life teaches you those lessons that sometimes itโ€™s better just to be relaxed and good things will happen.โ€

Partnering with Siniakova didnโ€™t hurt her chances; the 28-year-old Czech owns a career Grand Slam in doubles. She and Gauff, 20, teamed up for the first time in Paris on short notice after Gauffโ€™s usual partner, Jessica Pegula, withdrew with an injury.

It was the second final Paolini lost this weekend; she fell in singles to Iga Swiatek on Saturday.

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