Carlos Alcaraz takes down Rafa Nadal record in epic French Open win over Jannik Sinner

Alcaraz's stunning feat saw him topple Nadal and a number of other tennis legends.

Carlos Alcaraz has created tennis history after beating Jannik Sinner in an epic five-set French Open semi-final to become the youngest man ever to qualify for grand slam finals on all three surfaces. Alcaraz's 2-6 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3 win against Australian Open champion Sinner saw the 21-year-old Spaniard surpass Rafa Nadal and a number of other tennis legends to set up a showdown in the final against Alex de Minaur's quarter-final conqueror Alexander Zverev, who beat Casper Ruud 2-6 6-2 6-4 6-2 in the other semi-final.

Tennis legends Nadal, Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg and Jim Courier were all 22 when they achieved the feat of playing in grand slam finals on all three surfaces - hard court, clay and grass. But Alcaraz outdid them all after coming back from two sets to one down to topple Sinner, who is set to become the new World No.1. Sinner was undefeated in grand slams matches in 2024 after winning the Australian Open in February to claim his first major.

From left to right, Carlos Alcaraz', Jannik Sinner and Rafa Nadal at the French Open in 2024.
Carlos Alcaraz's semi-final victory over Jannik Sinner saw the 21-year-old surpass a record held by Rafa Nadal and a number of other tennis greats. Pic: Getty

Alcaraz won the US Open in 2022 on hard courts, Wimbledon in 2023 on grass and will now look to win a major on clay against Zverev in his first French Open final. A win for Alcaraz would leave him with just the Australian Open title left to complete a career Grand Slam and join one of the most elite clubs in tennis history.

The Spaniard - like his Italian opponent in the semi-final - had been battling injury before the tournament and did not look quite at his brilliant best. But despite the fact he kept falling behind in an absorbing affair against Sinner, the 21-year-old kept fighting to turn things around in what he described as one of the "toughest" matches of his life.

"You have to find the joy suffering. That's the key - even more on clay, here at Roland Garros. Long rallies. Four-hour matches. Five sets," Alcaraz said after the match. "You have to fight. You have to suffer. But as I told my team many, many times, you have to enjoy suffering.

"It's one of the toughest matches that I've played, for sure. The toughest matches that I played in my short career have been against Jannik." The Italian took out the opening set and broke for a 2-0 lead in the second before Alcaraz took advantage of a cramping Sinner - who received treatment from a trainer - to win five games in a row before levelling at one set apiece.


Alcaraz was seen flexing his right hand in the third set as he appeared to be dealing with cramp and Sinner took the set to leave him in a commanding position. But Alcaraz never wavered and showcased his full array of shot-making that included drop-shot winners, lobs, passing shots and powerful forehand and backhand striking from the baseline in a complete display.

"I always wanted to be one of the best players in the world. If I want to be one of the best players in the world, I have to be a good player on every surface, like Roger [Federer] did, Novak [Djokovic], Rafa [Nadal], [Andy] Murray," he said. "The best players in the world had success on every surface.

"So I consider myself a player who adapts very well his style in every surface. And, well, I grew up playing on clay, but I feel more comfortable playing on hard court, for example. I think my game suits very well to the clay court as well. So I just wanted to be a good player on every surface."

Fourth seed Zverev finally broke his run of three-straight French Open semi-final defeats with a four-set win over Ruud that came on the same day his court case was discontinued. Zverev's ex-girlfriend had accused him of assault during a 2020 argument but both parties reached an out-of-court settlement that prompted an end to the trial taking place in Berlin.

Lawyers for Zverev, who was not required to appear in court during the trial, issued a statement saying there was no finding of admission or guilt. "I told you so from the start; I told everybody. I'm happy that it's over," the 27-year-old Zverev said at his post-match news conference. "Yeah, nothing else more to say."

Pictured here, Alexander Zverev in his French Open semi-final in 2024.
Alexander Zverev was too good for Casper Ruud after winning their French Open semi-final in four sets. Pic: Getty

Reporters tried to press Zverev on the court case after his semi-final win over Ruud but the German was quick to shut down any follow-up questions on the topic. "We move on. I never, ever want to hear another question about the subject again. That goes out to everybody."

Zverev goes into Sunday's French Open final at Roland Garros aiming to clinch the first grand slam title of his career. He does lead the career head-to-head against Alcaraz 5-4, including victory over the Spaniard in the 2022 French Open quarter-finals. Zverev rallied after dropping the first set against Ruud, who appeared to be affected by illness throughout the rest of the contest as he was overpowered by the German.

with agencies