Alexander Zverev has beaten a fellow top-10 player in a grand slam for the first time in a dozen attempts, overcoming Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz in a pulsating French Open quarter-final.
The German world No.3 won 6-4 6-4 4-6 7-6 (9-7) in three hours, 18 minutes of ultimately breathtaking tennis on Tuesday.
Billed as the hors d’oeuvre before the Rafa Nadal-Novak Djokovic evening showdown the match proved a feast in itself.
Zverev raced to a two-set lead with Alcaraz making a string of unforced errors. But then the sun dipped behind the stands and the 19-year-old woke up, taking the third set and holding set point in a gripping fourth-set tiebreak.
Zverev, however, saved that point before winning on his second match point.
“I knew I had to play my best all match,” said Zverev. “I am extremely happy I won the tiebreak. The match was turning his way. I told him at the net he will win this tournament. I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all.”
Zverev broke in the fifth game of the opening set and never looked like letting his opponent back into the set.
In the second set the seventh game was decisive. A loose forehand, a poor choice of volley, and suddenly Alcaraz was a break down. At 30-0 love up in game nine he had the chance of levelling the break, but it slipped away even after Zverev double-faulted on set point.
Alcaraz at this stage had rarely displayed the dazzling form with which he has lit up the claycourt swing.
The third set began in a similar vein with Zverev almost breaking in the ninth game. But Alcaraz recovered from 0-30 down to hold. Then, to to roars of surprised delight from a partisan crowd, he broke himself to win the set.
For the first time Zverev, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2021 semi-final, looked rattled.
The fourth set featured some superb tennis, Alcaraz unveiling his drop-shot and Zverev scrambling magnificently. Then an Alcaraz double-fault handed Zverev a break and the chance to serve for the match.
Alcaraz, however, took on the challenge, forcing three breakback points, taking the second to level at 5-5.
Both players subsequently held so it was into a tiebreak which also oscillated with several mini-breaks, until, finally, Zverev sealed it.