Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev
Carlos Alcaraz faces off against Alexander Zverev for the 2024 French Open Championship | @carlitosalcarazz, @rolandgarros
(3) Carlos Alcaraz vs. (4) Alexander Zverev

Two of the best players in tennis will meet in the French Open championship driven by very different incentives.

Let’s start with Carlos Alcaraz.

Everyone has known for quite some time that Alaraz is the future of tennis and he has already validated those expectations. The rise of Jannik Sinner did not change that—it reinforced it. Every great athlete needs an equal to both define and drive their greatness. Victories against a rival define your greatness, while losses drive you to earn it.

Alcaraz’s victory over Sinner in the semifinals was the first matchup of real consequence between them because it was their first Grand Slam match after both of them had officially “arrived.” Every subsequent match between them will bear the weight of history.

Alcaraz drew first blood, and now he needs to convert that win into a trophy. It would be his third Grand Slam, and astoundingly it would already cover all three surfaces. At 21 years old, he is already the youngest man in history to reach the finals of all three Grand Slam surfaces.

His place is history is already secured, as wild as that sounds. The only thing to be determined is just how ludicrous his numbers will be when he ultimately retires. He is well past the “I hope I can do it” stage and firmly in the “how much of it can I do?” stage.

This is a great chance for him to take a 3-1 lead on Sinner in Grand Slam title counts. Even though that metric doesn’t matter to a player focused on the process, they 100% matter for motivation, whether they admit it or not.

Alexander Zverev is 27-years-old. He is unquestionably the current “best player who has yet to win a Slam,” a monkey that has hung around many player’s necks over the years. Some shoo it off, others don’t.

Zverev was two points away from the U.S. Open in 2020 when he fell in a fifth-set tiebreaker to Dominic Thiem 8-6. You can’t get much closer, and that agonizing loss was compounded by his devastating ankle injury here in 2022.

Despite eight appearances in Grand Slam semifinals, this is only his second time to reach the championship match (although he does have an Olympic gold medal from Tokyo in 2021, a feat that a couple Big Three guys might trade a Slam for).

Zverev knows he belongs in the Grand Slam winner category. He knows it deep in his bones and has dedicated himself mentally and physically for the last two years to manifest that reality.

Now he’s here and he has a job to do. This is not about hopes and dreams for him anymore. It’s about getting a job done with ruthless commitment and self-assurance, leaving no stone unturned in preparation for ultimate victory.

That’s how he’s treating every match these days. There is very little exuberance after a win. It’s a calm walk to the net, a gracious handshake, and a muted overhead swipe of the racket across his body…his little victory tradition.

One more win and it will become more celebratory.

Match Breakdown

Not many players have a winning record against Carlos Alcaraz, but Alexander Zverev does, leading 5-4 in head-to-head matchups.

He has the right kind of game to disrupt Alcaraz. His height, athleticism, and easy power can mute Alcaraz’s frenetic brilliance.

Zverev has arguably the best serve in the game, converting nearly 75% of his first-serve points here, and landing upwards of 88% of his first-serve attempts at times, which is madness. But that’s what you can do at 6’6″.

It gives him plenty of free points and the ability to escape from occasional danger on his serve.

Zverev’s backhand is steady-eddy, matched only by Djokovic and Medvedev in reliability.

His game may lack nuance—he isn’t going to slice and dice you—but it doesn’t need much nuance because the fundamentals are so bulletproof.

Alcaraz, however, is loaded with nuance, all-court speed, charisma, a surplus of self-belief, infinite artillery, and eye-popping impossible shotmaking.

He is the most exciting player tennis has ever seen, and that isn’t hyperbole. He can flip a script in an instant with one masterful moment that electrifies the crowd and tells his opponent, “I haven’t even started to show you what you’re up against.”

Zverev will have to take a few of those punches. His best response will be to put his head down and get back to work blunting highlights and drilling groundstrokes.

The difference in this match will be upstairs, between the ears. Between the cheers, even.

Zverev is in a place where he has made up his mind that he’s winning this Slam come hell or high water because “enough is enough. Get this over with. Now, today.”

Alcaraz will be thinking more about what this means for him over the next fifteen years.

This victory will happen in the present, though.

Winner: Alexander Zverev