Alcaraz leaves Paris with 'head held high'

 - Alex Sharp

A magical clay-court campaign is over for the world No.6 after defeat to Zverev in the Roland-Garros quarter-finals

Carlos Alcaraz, Roland Garros 2022, quarter-final© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Just like the legendary names atop of the Grand Slam roll of honour, the very best know how to bounce back, reset their goals and strive for more.

Fresh from Roland-Garros heartbreak, Carlos Alcaraz has dusted himself down and is already looking towards the future.

Now a global star, the teenage sensation will fly out of Paris with a legion of new fans after an astonishing second-week showing at Roland-Garros.

“I would say I finished the match playing better. I leave the court, leave the tournament with the head very high,” said the 19-year-old following his 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7) defeat to world No.3 Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

"I fought until the last second of the match, and I'm proud of it.”

So much hype, so many expectations, Alcaraz has taken it all in his stride.

Remember, this time last year Juan Carlos Ferrero’s turbo talent qualified for a main draw debut to then reach the third round here. Twelve months on – off the back of Miami and Madrid Masters 1000 silverware success – he’s transformed into a Grand Slam contender. 

Four rounds bursting with tenacious tennis and human highlight reel shot-making, Alcaraz’s journey ended on Tuesday.

Seeking a maiden major semi-final, the world No.6 was pipped by Zverev in three hours and 18 minutes.

The Spanish teen phenom saw his 14-match winning streak come to an end as he suffered just his third top-10 defeat of the season, from 11 contested.

Alcaraz struggled to impose himself in the opening two sets, but gave the packed Court Philippe-Chatrier one final glimpse into the future landscape at the peak of men’s tennis.

The scorching fourth-set tiebreak exemplified the minor margins which define major glory. Alcaraz is fully aware of that, his belief in himself stocking up rather than diminishing. It's already time to look forward.

“I have to take the lesson today,” admitted Alcaraz. “In this level, quarter-final of a Grand Slam, you are playing against the best players in the world, so you have to start the match better than I did. I have to improve to the next Grand Slam or next matches.” 

But here comes a warning shot for his rivals and the chasing pack. 

“I would say I'm not far away to reach a semi-final or be able to win a Grand Slam. I would say I have the level, I have the confidence to win a Grand Slam or pass through to the semi-final next time," he added.

The tennis world will certainly be watching over at Wimbledon.

Carlos Alcaraz, Roland Garros 2022, quarter-final© Pauline Ballet/FFT

The whole Alcaraz team, spearheaded by former world No.1 and 2003 Roland-Garros champion Ferrero, has molded an athlete who truly appreciates the bigger picture.

“This match is not going to be tough for me, I'm not going to say I'm disappointed for this match,” explained the Next Gen talisman.

“I could say, I was close to a good match, close to a fifth set, and in the fifth set anything could happen.

"I just gonna try to take the positive things of the match, and of course the bad things that I did, to improve to the next matches.”

The 19-year-old, who has notched up two major quarter-finals, is already a crowd favourite and a key fixture for broadcasters; fans of all ages are adoring the charisma of ‘Charly.’

“I enjoyed a lot, even I lost. Playing in front of such a great crowd, playing in these kind of tournaments, this kind of court, is amazing for me,” added the world No.6, who is an impressive 32-4 win-loss this season.

“I train for these moments. I fight with the best player in the world, fight for a ticket of final of a Grand Slam for me. I couldn't ask for a better crowd in here, in Paris supporting me, until the last ball supporting me.

“That’s why I'm playing tennis, to keep dreaming.”

If Roland-Garros is anything to go by, those dreams will come reality sooner rather than later.