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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, June 9, 2024
Photo credit: Corleve/Mark Peterson

A fifth set in a Grand Slam final is survival of the fittest.

Alexander Zverev's Grand Slam dream was shattered by battle beast Carlos Alcaraz.

King Carlos: Alcaraz Fights Off Zverev for First Roland Garros Crown

The 21-year-old Spaniard squandered a 5-2 third-set lead then unleashed a shot-making spree winning 12 of the last 15 games taming Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 in a four hour, 19-minute marathon to capture his maiden Roland Garros championship.

Riding a 12-match clay-court win streak into today's final, Zverev seemed to have all the momentum as he rolled through five games in a row to go up two sets to one.

Alcaraz ascended to level of intensity Zverev, playing his third five-setter of the tournament, could not match.

Afterward, Zverev, the man Hall of Famer John McEnroe called the fittest man in the tournament, said he could not match the Wimbledon winner's physicality over the final two sets, calling Alcaraz "an animal."

"We're both physically strong, but he's a beast," Zverev told the media in Paris. "He's an animal, for sure. The intensity he plays tennis at is different to other people. You know, he can do so many different things, right?

"I think he changed his tactic a lot in the fifth set, started to play a lot higher, a lot deeper for me to not create as much power. Especially with the shadows on the court, it was slower again. But he's a fantastic player, and physically he's fantastic."

The third-seeded Alcaraz made history as the youngest man to win major titles on all three Grand Slam surfaces: hard court (2022 US Open), grass (2023 Wimbledon) and clay (Roland Garros).

Alcaraz improved to 11-1 in five-set matches, while Zverev dropped to 10-2 in Roland Garros five-setters.

The Olympic gold-medal champion, who could face Alcaraz again at Roland Garros in the Paris Olympics next month, conceded the 19-and-a-half hours he spent on court took a toll today. Zverev opened the tournament defeating king of clay Rafael Nadal in a blockbuster opening-round win.

"Yeah, I lost focus, and on my serve I didn't get the power from my legs anymore, which is weird," Zverev said. "Because normally I do not get tired. I don't cramp, I don't get tired normally.

"But again, against Carlos it's a different intensity, so maybe that was the case a bit. Yeah, maybe I have to look at my preparation. Maybe I have to look at how I do things on a physical base as well.

"Of course, look, I felt from the tennis level I was playing decent and he was playing decent for three sets. Then I dropped a lot."

Photo credit: Corleve/Mark Peterson