Zverev downs Alcaraz to reach 2nd straight French Open semifinal

Paris, May 31 (EFE).- Alexander Zverev leaned on his experience, potent serve and strong baseline game to edge Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7) on Tuesday and advance to the French Open semifinals for the second straight year.

Alcaraz came charging back after a slow start and nearly forced a fifth set, but a pair of outstanding backhand winners by Zverev – including a down-the-line howitzer on match point – got the German over the finish line.

From the outset, the world No. 3 showed that he would be a much more formidable opponent than the one who succumbed meekly to Alcaraz in the Madrid Open final earlier this month.

In the first set, Zverev not only won 14 of 18 first-serve points but the second-serve-point differential (the German won 80 percent of his, while Alcaraz won just 47 percent) showed his command of the baseline in the early stages.

The sixth-ranked Alcaraz fared better on serve in the second set, but once again he made little impression on Zverev’s serve and failed to record a single break in falling down two sets to love.

The German started showing some chinks in his armor, however, in the third set.

His winning percentage on second-serve points began to drop and that opened the door for Alcaraz to earn his first service break of the match to close the gap to two sets to one.

Zverev bounced back well, however, in the fourth set and earned a chance to serve for the match when he broke Alcaraz’s serve in the ninth game.

But the mental lapses that have plagued him in the past resurfaced when up 5-4, as the German fell behind 0-40 and then dropped serve two points later to the delight of the pro-Alcaraz crowd.

Shouts of “Carlos! Carlos!” echoed through Court Philippe-Chatrier as the fans tried to will a fifth set.

Both players raised their level in the fourth-set tiebreaker, with Alcaraz showcasing his blistering cross-court backhand and Zverev also making a highlight-reel on-the-run backhand passing shot.

The Spaniard was one point away from forcing a fifth set when he stepped up to the line to serve at 6-5, but a costly backhand error gave Zverev new life and the German wrapped up the victory a few points later with a phenomenal backhand down-the-line winner.

Afterward, the 25-year-old Zverev was full of praise for the young superstar in the making.

“I knew I had to play my absolute best tennis today from the very start on. He kept on coming back, he’s an incredible player. I told him at the net you’re going to win this tournament multiple times, not only once,” the German said.

“I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all and we’ll have no chance.”

The win was a breakthrough for Zverev, who prior to Tuesday had been 0-11 against top-10 players in Grand Slam events. Next up for the German in the semifinals will be the winner of Tuesday’s blockbuster showdown between 13-time champion Rafael Nadal and Serbian defending champion Novak Djokovic.

The 19-year-old Alcaraz equaled his best-ever major result by reaching the quarterfinals, but all signs point to many semifinals, finals and championship trophies in his very promising future. EFE


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