“I leave the court, leave the tournament with the head very high,” he said. “I fight until the last ball. I fought until the last second of the match, and I’m proud of it.”
But the best-of-five-set format remains another type of challenge than the best-of-three-set variety played on the regular tour. For now, Alcaraz’s best results in the majors are quarterfinal runs at the U.S. Open last year and now in Paris.
“I didn’t start well, and in this level, quarterfinal of a Grand Slam, you are playing against the best players in the world, so you have to start the match better than I did today,” Alcaraz said. “I have to take the lesson. I mean, I have to improve to the next Grand Slam or next matches. But I would say I’m not far away to reach a semifinal or be able to win a Grand Slam.”
Zverev, a semifinalist at Roland Garros last year, clearly felt the odds were against him on Tuesday in light of Alcaraz’s recent results. Alcaraz had won the Barcelona and Madrid titles back-to-back on red clay and resumed rolling at Roland Garros after saving a match point against his Spanish compatriot Albert Ramos-Viñolas in the second round.
“I knew I had to play my absolutely best tennis today from the start, and I’m happy I did that,” Zverev said. “Obviously he kept on coming back. He’s an incredible player. I told him at the net, he’s going to win this tournament a lot of times, not only once, and I just hope I can win it before he starts beating us all, and we’ll have no chance at all.”
Zverev, despite his fine performance (and evident relief) on Tuesday, is still a long way from winning his first Grand Slam singles title. In the semifinals, he will face the winner of Tuesday’s second match: a night session between Djokovic and the fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal, who has won the French Open a record 13 times.
“It’s not really getting easier from here,” said Zverev, still looking delighted. “But I said a lot of times, I’m not 20 or 21 years old anymore; I’m 25. I am at the stage where I want to win, I’m at the stage where I’m supposed to win, as well.”