Carlos Alcaraz desperate to emulate hero Rafael Nadal at French Open | Tennis | Sport

Carlos Alcaraz will bid to emulate his hero Rafael Nadal and other Spanish legends by winning his first French Open on Sunday.

The Wimbledon champion faces Alexander Zverev in the final – the German who knocked out the 14-time winner Nadal in the opening round.

Spanish male players have claimed the clay-court Grand Slam a record 20 times in the Open era with Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero winning in 2003 – a month after the 21-year-old was born.

The double Major champion said: “I have a special feeling for this tournament, because I remember when I finished school, I ran home just to put the TV on and watch the matches here in the French Open.

“I watched a lot of matches. Of course Rafa Nadal dominated this tournament for 14 years. It’s something unbelievable. I wanted to put my name on that list of the Spanish players who won this tournament.

“Not only Rafa. Ferrero, (Carlos) Moya, (Alberto) Costa, a lot of Spanish players, legends from our sport that won this tournament, I really want to put my name on that list, as well.”

Alcaraz is also the youngest player to reach a Grand Slam final on all three surfaces – clay, grass and hard courts.

“I knew that,” smiled the 2022 US Open winner. “It’s something great. Breaking new records for me is great, great success for me.

“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, (Andy) Murray.

“The best players in the world had success on every surface.”

This is the first French Open final since 2004 without any of the Big Three – Nadal, Federer or Djokovic.

Zverev, who has reached an out-of-court settlement with his ex-girlfriend Brenda Patea over an allegation of domestic abuse, is looking for his first Major after losing the 2020 US Open final.

“I was not ready to win my first Grand Slam final,” said the Olympic champion. “I was too much of a kid still. I’m 27 now, I’m getting older. If not now, then when?”

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