WATCH: From match point down, Alcaraz proved he is every bit the contender for Roland Garros glory everyone believed him to be.

For three hours and nearly three sets, Albert Ramos-Viñolas had played the tennis match of his life. The 34-year-old had out-hit the most talked about player in the sport, Carlos Alcaraz, a man who is 15 years younger and ranked 38 spots higher than he is.

Ramos-Viñolas had defied a youthful, pro-Alcaraz crowd in Court Simonne-Mathieu, and turned what many assumed would be a blowout win for his opponent into an improbable upset-in-the-making. Now, after flicking a backhand crosscourt winner past a bewildered and beleaguered Alcaraz, Ramos-Viñolas stood one point from victory as he walked to the baseline to serve at 5-4, 40-30 in the fourth set.

Before the match, few gave Ramos-Viñolas a chance of standing up to Alcaraz’s barrage of groundstroke and drop shot winners. And for the first seven games, he didn’t stand up to it. Alcaraz blitzed through the first set with an imperious shot-making display. But bit by bit, shot by shot, rally by rally, the veteran slowed the teenager’s momentum and gradually turned it in his favor.

By the third set, Ramos-Viñolas had made his own lefty forehand into the most important and versatile weapon on the court; when he wasn’t swinging Alcaraz out wide with it, he was beating him down the line. He anticipated Alcaraz’s drop shots, and showed off his own mastery of clay-court point construction. He had Alcaraz, the most confident and decisive player of the spring, at a loss.

Now Ramos-Viñolas needed one more winner to send Alcaraz to a stunningly early exit from Roland Garros. Ramos-Viñolas hit a good, hooking first serve, but missed it by an inch. He spun his second serve in, and Alcaraz responded with a fairly deep—but not that penetrating—backhand return. Then, for the time in three hours, Ramos-Viñolas hesitated on his forehand. He moved into position a split-second late, while he was still backing up, and put the ball into the net. He wouldn’t get that close to winning again.

“I know him a lot,” Alcaraz said of his countryman. “I knew it was going to be a great match, and of course a tough match.”

After squandering that match point, Ramos-Viñolas would continue to make life tough for Alcaraz. He would push the fourth set to a tiebreaker, and go up a break at 4-3 in the fifth set. But in the end, all Ramos-Viñolas did was give Alcaraz another chance to show what a special athlete and competitor he is.


I’m trying to enjoy the moment. I think that in the fourth set, and in the fifth, I smile with my team. So, I enjoy that battles. Carlos Alcaraz

Alcaraz hit 74 winners and made 74 errors, which shows that this was not his most immaculate performance. He seemed to lose belief in his drop shot, and began using it from the wrong positions on the court. The forehand and backhands he had been drilling for easy winners all year now found the net. He nervously missed simple putaways on big points.

And yet, Alcaraz won anyway. Instead of winning with unstoppable offense, he won two crucial final-set points with unbelievable defense. Down 0-3 in the fifth, he tore across the baseline from one alley to the other, caught up to a seemingly ungettable Ramos-Viñolas volley, and hit a winning backhand pass to break. At 4-4 in the fifth, Alcaraz made an incredible series of stab gets and lobs, until Ramos-Viñolas finally dumped a volley into the net—and then chucked his racquet there in frustration.

“I don’t know [my] time,” Alcaraz said when he was asked if he had been timed as a sprinter,” but I would say I’m fast.”

Given his own chance to serve out the match, Alcaraz didn’t hesitate. He hit three aces and a forehand winner for a 6-1, 6-7 (9), 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4 win in four hours and 34 minutes.

“I mean, it was a great point at the end of the fifth,” Alcaraz said with a smile. “[To] be able to run like this and get the point like I did is, yeah, amazing.”

“I’m trying to enjoy the moment. I think that in the fourth set, and in the fifth, I smile with my team. So, I enjoy that battles.”

We’ve seen Alcaraz use his best stuff to dominate opponents this spring. Today we saw that he can survive without his best, too. When all looked lost, he found a way to win. That’s why he’s still at Roland Garros, and every bit the co-favorite to win it that he was yesterday.