Alcaraz downs Sinner, to face Zverev in French Open final

Carlos Alcaraz fought back to reach his third Grand Slam final (Bertrand GUAY)
Carlos Alcaraz fought back to reach his third Grand Slam final (Bertrand GUAY)

Carlos Alcaraz outlasted Jannik Sinner in an engrossing five-set battle on Friday to reach his first French Open final, where he will face Alexander Zverev who beat two-time runner-up Casper Ruud.

The two-time Grand Slam champion trailed 2-1 in sets to incoming world number one Sinner, but rallied in the Paris sunshine to win 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 after four hours and nine minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.

It was another gripping chapter in the pair's burgeoning rivalry, with Alcaraz now leading their head-to-head 5-4.

"I hope to play many, many more matches like this one against Jannik but it's one of the toughest I've played for sure," said Alcaraz.

"I'm really happy about everything I did today. I waited for my moment until I took it."

The 21-year-old will be the favourite heading into Sunday's final as he aims to become the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on clay, grass and hard courts.

He has won both of his two previous major finals -- at Wimbledon last year and the 2022 US Open.

But Zverev holds a career 5-4 winning record against Alcaraz, including a victory in their only previous Roland Garros meeting in the 2022 quarter-finals.

A German court dropped a case against Zverev over allegations he assaulted an ex-girlfriend earlier on Friday, after a settlement was agreed.

As part of the settlement, Zverev had agreed to pay 200,000 euros ($217,000), with most of it going into state coffers and the remainder to a fund for charitable organisations, a court spokeswoman said.

"I told you so from the start. I told everybody," said Zverev, who had already been fined 450,000 euros in October in the same case.

"I'm happy that it's over. Yeah, nothing else more to say. That's it. Four years. I'm happy about that."

- Alcaraz finds best in key moments -

There are two first-time French Open men's finalists for the first year since Rafael Nadal defeated Mariano Puerta for the first of his 14 titles in 2005.

Italian Sinner, playing in his first Roland Garros semi-final, put up a brave fight but came up just short as he suffered only his third defeat of the season and his first at a Slam this year after winning the Australian Open.

Alcaraz was not at his best for long periods, but found his form at the right time late in the fourth set, powering to victory on the back of 65 winners.

Sinner flew out of the blocks, breaking in the first game of the match en route to a 4-0 lead before wrapping up the opening set.

World number three Alcaraz looked in trouble when he quickly fell 2-0 behind in the second set, but Sinner's level markedly dropped as the Spaniard reeled off five straight games before levelling the match.

Sinner was starting to struggle with his serve -- making eight double-faults across the second and third sets -- and Alcaraz struck first with an early break in the third.

But Sinner upped his game again, breaking Alcaraz twice before moving a set in front.

After 10 breaks across the first three sets, both players stabilised on serve in the fourth, with nine successive comfortable holds.

But Alcaraz found some magic when he needed it most as, leading the set 5-4 but 30-0 down on Sinner's serve, he produced a series of sparkling shots and forced a decider with a backhand winner on the stretch.

The momentum was all with Alcaraz and a wonderful lob helped him bring up break point in the second game of the fifth.

The duelling duo were bringing the best out of each other, but although Sinner produced a perfect drop shot to save that break point, Alcaraz powered away a forehand shortly afterwards to secure a 2-0 advantage.

Sinner steadied the ship to keep the pressure on his opponent, but Alcaraz successfully served out for a place in the final in a tense ninth game, clinching victory on his third match point as Sinner blazed long.

- Zverev into first final -

Zverev exacted revenge on Ruud to reach his second Grand Slam final and first since 2020.

Fourth seed Zverev, who had lost in the semi-finals at Roland Garros in each of the past three years, fought back to beat Ruud 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in a repeat of their last-four clash 12 months ago.

Zverev won just seven games when the pair met in the 2023 semis and a similar story was on the cards after Ruud cruised through the opening set.

But the German stepped up, reaching his first French Open final and keeping his hopes of a maiden Grand Slam title alive.

The 27-year-old Zverev's only previous major final appearance saw him blow a two-set lead to lose to Dominic Thiem at the 2020 US Open.

"I was not ready then... I'm definitely not a kid any more, I'm a little older. If not now, then when?" said Zverev.

Ruud was targeting a fourth Grand Slam final, but the two-time Roland Garros runner-up was well below his best and seemed to struggling with illness.