Alcaraz's dreams inked into history

The Spaniard battled back over five sets to edge Alexander Zverev to lift his third Grand Slam title

Carlos Alcaraz, finale, Roland-Garros 2024 ©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Carlos Alcaraz will never forget Roland-Garros 2024.

All sorts of records and stats have fallen in his favour as the youngest man to win three Grand Slams on the sport's three different surfaces.

A tear rolled down his cheek after Alcaraz reeled in Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 to be handed the Coupe des Mousquetaires by six-time Roland-Garros winner Bjorn Borg on Sunday.

Just in case the 21-year-old's memories fade, he's getting the Eiffel Tower tattooed onto his left ankle along with Sunday's date, the day he completed a childhood dream on the terre battue of Court Philippe-Chatrier.

"Winning your first in every Grand Slam is always super special," Alcaraz said. The Spaniard has a dated tattoo on his right arm for his US Open 2022 triumph and another on his right ankle for winning Wimbledon last summer.

"But in Roland-Garros, knowing all the Spanish players who have won this tournament and be able to put my name on that amazing list is something unbelievable. Something that I dream about being in this position since I started playing tennis, since I was five, six years old. It's a great, great feeling."

Alcaraz has already achieved so much alongside his three majors, including topping the world rankings. Where does this Parisian conquest rank?

"That's a difficult question," he said. "Obviously winning the US Open, when I reached for the first time the No.1, something that I dream since I started playing tennis. The way that I won Wimbledon, beating Novak Djokovic in five sets, has been a great achievement for me.

"Right now lifting the Roland-Garros trophy, knowing everything that I have been through the last month with the injuries and all that stuff. Just to be ready for this tournament with my team, a lot of talks with them.

"You know, if I have to practise, if I can't practise or discuss with them, has been really difficult for me. So I'm going to say this one is the most that I am proud about myself."

Zverev described Alcaraz as "a beast. He's an animal. The intensity he plays tennis at is different to other people."

That beast has now won 11 of his 12 Grand Slam matches that have gone to five sets. His champion's mentality is reminiscent of his idol Rafael Nadal.

"You have to give your heart. In those moments, it's where the top players give their best tennis," the Spaniard added.

"I wanted to be one of the best tennis players in the world, so I have to give extra in those moments in the fifth set, I have to show the opponent that I am fresh, I'm like we are playing the first game of the match.

"That works pretty well if the opponents see me that I'm moving well, I'm hitting the good shots, I'm finding good solutions. And of course, the mental strength plays a great part in that moment if you want to win the slams." 

On Monday, Jannik Sinner, who Alcaraz toppled in a thrilling semi-final, will rise to world No.1, with the 21-year-old returning to world No.2. Men's tennis is definitely in safe hands.

Looking towards the end of the month and Alcaraz's title defence is on the line at Wimbledon. Talk of chasing down all-time Grand Slam records and his legacy doesn't feature in his thoughts.

"I talked to my coach Juan Carlos (Ferrero) before facing this final. He told me, 'you're going to fight for your third Grand Slam title, with everything you have been through, and you know the difficult part of winning a Grand Slam, and Djokovic has 24'. So it is unbelievable," the No.3 seed said.

"Right now I can't think about it. I just want to keep going, and let's see how many Grand Slams I'm gonna take at the end of my career. Hopefully reach the 24, but right now I'm going to enjoy my third one, and let's see in the future."