Alexander Zverev was back at his absolute best in the quarter-final of the 2022 Roland Garros against Carlos Alcaraz. The German won the tie 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7) in three hours and eight minutes of adrenaline fueled tennis. Alcaraz did not seem to get his groove in the first couple of sets, but he came back with a vengeance in the latter stages of the contest. However, the German was just too strong. It was Zverev’s first win against an ATP top 10 player in a Grand Slam. Alcaraz, on the other hand, was on a 14-match winning streak but that record was brought to an abrupt halt by the world no. 3. Their ATP head to head record was 2-1 in the German’s favour ahead of the match.
The two top 10 players started the first set on an even note. Alcaraz ended up taking the lead eventually but Zverev broke it shortly afterwards to lead the set 3-2. Things were still quite tentative for both players by that time but the tall, lanky German kept at it and got the result he wanted. One of the things that was catching Zverev off guard was Alcaraz’s drop shots. The German did not seem comfortable dealing with them and although he won the set, it was an area of concern.
The second set was more of the same in terms of score, but the players’ mentality was the thing to watch out for. Alcaraz was getting frustrated as he was just not being able to consistently land good shots. One of the commentators said at one point that he had never seen such reactions from him. After a poor shot at the beginning of the set, Alcaraz turned to his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero and said in Spanish, “This can’t happen.”
A couple of things that were working for the 19-year-old Spaniard were his impeccable drop shots and movement across the court. They were reminiscent of a young Rafael Nadal who will be in action later in the day. However, his mishits were not improving and his serves were quite predictable. What made things worse was that Zverev, using all of his experience, started anticipating Alcaraz’s drop shots. By the time the set ended, he had become quite adept at returning them.
The third set of the match was a back and forth affair as Zverev and Alcaraz came up with an answer for almost everything the other threw at them. At one point, the set was tied 4-4 and the capacity crowd inside the Phillipe-Chatrier were on the edge of their seats. Alcaraz would then go on to claim the next set and lead 5-4, with Zverev serving. Willed on by the crowd, the 19-year-old finally found his groove and started playing like he has been for the past month or so. His drop shots started proving effective once more and in the end, it was one of those that won him the third set.
After that set win, it almost felt like a weight had been lifted off the Spaniard’s shoulders. He started the fourth set just how he ended the third, with a successful drop shot. This time, it was Zverev who seemed tentative about his shot play while his opponent brimmed with confidence. The Spaniard was missing exactly this in the first two sets, but somehow, he started firing and seemed unstoppable.
However, Zverev broke shortly afterwards and led the set 5-4, serving for the match win. However, it was Alcaraz who won the first three games and eventually went on to win the set for the break. The score now was 5-5. The German won the first game of the following set but the teenager was back at it with a deft drop shot, Alcaraz won the game and led the set 6-5, one set away from tying the match from an unlikely position.
The world no. 3 was not going to go down that easy, though. Zverev took the next game with ease to push the set to a tie-break. He also took the first point of the tie-break in exquisite fashion. An unforced error from Alcaraz gave him the second point right after. It took the Spaniard about two minutes to level things up again. The duo went back and forth yet again until the score was 7-7. Despite Alcaraz’s best efforts, it was the experienced German who nicked the tie-break 9-7 and won the match.