Even though he had already won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, Carlos Alcaraz was still expected to triumph at Roland Garros. It is now done, thanks to a victory in five sets of 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 against Alexander Zverev on Sunday.

Despite a phenomenal rise and remarkable accomplishments, it’s as if there’s still a line missing from Alcaraz’s resume. As absurd as that may seem at 21.

Since his arrival on the circuit, comparisons with Rafael Nadal have been made naturally, due to their intensity, their nationality and especially their skill on clay, the new world number two’s favorite surface.

This is why we were impatiently awaiting a possible coronation at Roland-Garros. Like we wait for the crowning of a golfer at the Masters Tournament or a driver at the Indianapolis 500. The fourth time was good for the Spaniard.

And he will have worked hard to finally fulfill his destiny. The final began on the Philippe-Chatrier court under a blazing sun. It continued under partial shade, until only a few snatches of light illuminated the sanded playing surface.

After 4 hours and 19 minutes of play, Zverev, at arm’s length, was unable to return his rival’s strong cross-court forehand. A sequence similar to the last set. In this kind of confrontation reaching the limit, only those who resist pain, fatigue and their demons can survive.

Zverev, like his other grand slam final in 2020 in New York, ran out of gas in the tank to end up with the trophy in his hands.

During the last set, he did not convert any of his five break points. And this statistic alone could explain why he failed in his mission to win a first major title. In addition, the legs of the fourth player in the world did not resist the varied attacks of Alcaraz and the energy of despair was not enough to bring the German back to life.

A controversial decision by the chair umpire could also explain why Zverev in the last four games of the match looked completely taken aback.

In the fourth game, Alcaraz led 2 to 1, but struggled with service. As was the case for a good part of the match, in fact. For the third time in the match, the Spaniard was stuck in a serving game close to 10 minutes. He had to cancel two break points, at 15-40. On his second serve, a ball that at first glance fell to the left of the center line was judged to be inside by the referee, who came down to make sure. Zverev was so convinced he had broken his opponent that he celebrated by going for his towel. However, the official had judged the trajectory of the ball differently, to the great dismay of the big guy. Zverev, visibly frustrated with his fate, escaped the game and Alcaraz made it 3-1.

We will never know where the ball actually hit the ground, because Roland-Garros does not use the famous hawk-eye technology to judge the trajectory of the balls. Every decision goes to the referee in a suit. The disputed decisions have been recurring for two weeks.

The match was then over and Alcaraz never looked back.

This incident, however, in no way invalidates Alcaraz’s coronation. “You are a player who already has a place in the Hall of Fame. You’re already a great player,” Zverev said towards his shooter after the match.

This hotly contested final was one of errors, inconsistency and imbalance.

This final was a mental battle before being a physical one. Neither attacker was in control from start to finish. It was therefore necessary to survive the changes in pace, the time and the heaviness of the stakes.

Zverev had the upper hand in serving efficiency with 73% of first serves in play. But Alcaraz had the upper hand in points won on first serves with 65%. Both committed six double faults. Then, neither of them crossed the 50% mark on second serves. In both cases, nothing exceptional on serve.

They each finished the match with a negative ratio of winners and unforced errors. The loser had 52 successes, but failed 56 times. A fact that would undoubtedly have caused him to lose any other grand slam final.

The difference between the victory of Alcaraz and the defeat of Zverev therefore lies in the ability of the first artisan to vary, to provoke and commit until the end.

In the first portion of the match, Alcaraz struggled at the end of the innings. During chapters two and three, he was broken each time in his last two serving sequences. Mainly because Zverev was the striker. His opponent was forced to change his positioning and his patterns to survive, which ultimately harmed him more.

Alcaraz, however, regained control of the exchanges and the rhythm at the start of the fourth round. He weakened Zverev with two consecutive breaks, because he chose to return to what he does best, which is to be himself by making the ball travel to all corners of the court.

The 21-year-old used every tool available in his trunk. He finished the duel with twice as many drop shots and twice as many lobs as his rival. This decision to change the pace of the exchanges as well as the depth and power of his balls saved him. The youngest player in history to reach a grand slam final on all surfaces proves that he shares with the greatest champions two the ability to adapt in the middle of a match and resist despite the ferocity of the storm.

He now has a record of three wins and no losses in major tournament finals and a record of 11 wins in 12 matches when going in five sets.

In just the fifth round, Alcaraz hit 13 winners, compared to just five for Zverev. The latter was lagging behind his opponent. And at the end of the match, while he waited on his bench, Alcaraz celebrated with his family in the stands, leaving behind grains of clay acting as evidence of his triumph.