Who will win the men's French Open final? - 7 minutes read

Tom Hamilton, Senior WriterJun 8, 2024, 08:43 AM ETClose• Joined ESPN in 2011
• Covered two Olympics, a pair of Rugby World Cups and two British & Irish Lions tours
• Previously rugby editor, and became senior writer in 2018

PARIS -- Carlos Alcaraz will be looking to establish himself as the new king of clay when he takes on Alexander Zverev in the men's French Open final on Sunday.

Alcaraz, 21, has long been touted as the natural successor to Rafael Nadal, but his two Grand Slam titles have come at Wimbledon and the US Open. In reaching the final at Roland Garros, he became the youngest man to reach a Grand Slam final on all three surfaces.

Zverev, 27, reached four straight French Open semifinals, but this is his first final. It is his second Grand Slam final overall.

Here's how each player could prevail in the French Open title match.

Alcaraz has won two Grand Slam titles, but this would be his first at the French Open. Lionel Hahn/Getty Images Why Carlos Alcaraz will win

Alcaraz came into Roland Garros hampered by a forearm injury. He was forced to withdraw from the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open, then lost in Madrid to Andrey Rublev and withdrew from Rome. So it was hardly a straightforward buildup to the French Open, and early in the tournament he was talking about not being able to hit his forehand with 100% power.

But we've seen Alcaraz build each round, and despite any lingering concern with his usually lethal forehand, he's managed to stave off all competition. After overcoming J.J. Wolf in the opening round, he had to navigate tricky qualifier Jesper de Jong before seeing off Sebastian Korda in straight sets. He came through a potentially tough match with Felix Auger-Aliassime with ease and then got past Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in the quarters.Editor's Picks1 Related

"The kid is just too good," Tsitsipas said afterward.

The semifinal with Sinner was hardest match. Alcaraz looked sluggish in the opening set, but in a test of endurance and precision, he eventually got past Sinner on Friday in 4 hours, 10 minutes -- winning 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Alcaraz's game is perfectly suited to clay. He looks at home as he slips and slides along the baseline. His decision to use pace to get to the net more against Sinner in the second set swung the match back in his favor.

"He's controlling the ball exceptionally well, and he's able to just change directions so easily," Tsitsipas said. "He reminds me a little bit of Novak [Djokovic] when he plays. The way he constructs points, the way he uses his mind to come up with great solutions and tactics all the time, he just has answers to everything. He's a smart player. He plays with a great tennis IQ."

Alcaraz reached the semifinal of this tournament last year, but had issues with cramping and lost to Djokovic. Although he has struggled with cramps again this year, Alcaraz navigated his way through them.

"I'm stronger mentally and I knew how to deal with this situation; I know the cramps will go away if I stay there," he said on Friday.

Alcaraz has an ability to find another level just when he appears to be already operating at maximum efficiency. "You have to find the joy in suffering, that's the key," he said after the win over Sinner.

Zverev is in his first final at Roland Garros, after making the semifinals the past three years. Frey/TPN/Getty Images Why Alexander Zverev will win

After three semifinals in a row, Zverev finally advanced to his first French Open final. In 2021, he was defeated by Tsitsipas in the final four, while in 2022 he was pushing Nadal to the limit only to tear some ankle ligaments and retire at the end of the second set. Last year, he fell in straight sets to Casper Ruud.

But in 2024, he's on the verge of winning the title. "Some of my worst and best memories are on [Philippe-Chatrier] and I'm going to give it my all on Sunday," Zverev said.

Zverev has enjoyed a brilliant Roland Garros. It started with an opening-round match against Nadal. But he managed to come through that in straight sets before overcoming David Goffin in the second round. Then, Zverev had to grit out a five-set match against Tallon Griekspoor before enduring another marathon against Holger Rune in the fourth round. But he made quick work of Alex De Minaur in the quarterfinals.Top stories of the week from Get exclusive access to thousands of premium articles a year from top writers.
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Against Ruud in the semifinals, he lost the opening set, but bounced back to break Ruud at the start of the second and he stayed in control. "I knew I had to be far more aggressive," Zverev said.

Ruud is one of the best clay court specialists on tour, but struggled with a stomach bug. Zverev won 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

Zverev holds a 5-4 advantage over Alcaraz, but he seems ready for the moment. "He serves really well," Goffin said after his second-round loss. "He's solid, really hits across the court and moves around very nicely."

Zverev has also illustrated his tactical skills here, shifting things when needed with Griekspoor in their third-round match. "My first mindset was, OK, right, I'm down 4-1, but how do I give myself the best chance to come back?" Zverev said. "The No. 1 thing I had to take away was his serve and volley game, which was working out very well today for him. So I did that."

While Zverev has been playing at Roland Garros, a trial was being held in his home country of Germany, where he had been accused of domestic abuse by a former girlfriend. On Friday, it was announced that Zverev had agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the woman.

What will happen?

Alcaraz has fond memories of watching this tournament growing up. When he finished his school day in El Palmar, Spain, he ran home to watch the French Open on TV. "I wanted to put my name on that list of the Spanish names who have won this tournament," he said. He was inspired by Nadal, but he wants to sit alongside Manuel Santana, Andres Gimeno, Sergi Bruguera, Carlos Moya, Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero, who have all won the tournament.

Alcaraz is already breaking the records of his illustrious peers -- reaching a Grand Slam final on all three surfaces at a younger age than Roger Federer, Djokovic and Nadal. "It's something great, breaking new records for me is great and a success for me," Alcaraz said. "But I don't want to think about that."

Zverev is playing the best tennis of his career and is confident clay is quickly becoming his dominant surface.

"If not now, then when?" he said on court after the Ruud win. "If you're in the final of Roland Garros, you deserve to be there, and that goes for [Alcaraz] as well. To win a Grand Slam you have to go through battles. If I am able to win that trophy, it will mean the world to me."

Prepare for a five-set marathon, with Alcaraz winning it in a tiebreak.

Source: ESPN

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