Wednesday June 19, 2024

Djokovic beats Alcaraz to set French Open final showdown against Ruud

Published : 10 Jun 2023, 14:39

  DF News Desk
Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return during the men's singles semifinal against Carlos Alcaraz of Spain at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, June 9, 2023. Photo: Xinhua by Gao Jing.

Novak Djokovic moved one step closer to a record 23rd Grand Slam crown on Friday at Roland Garros as he triumphed 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 over world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz who was hit by a serious cramping which ruined his play, reported Xinhua.

The drama in the match unfolded just at the beginning of the third set when Djokovic held his serve to level the set 1-1 with the two players splitting the first two sets. But his Spanish opponent immediately pulled up and limped back to receive treatment after hitting a return into the net.

"The first and second sets were very intense. My arm cramped and then every part of my body cramped," said Alcaraz about his situation on the court.

The 20-year-old admitted that facing Djokovic for the first time at a Grand Slam brought him a unique tension which may be one of the reasons for his physical ailment.

"It was the tension of the match, the tension of the first set, the second set, it was really intense. Really good rallies, tough rallies, drop shots, sprints," he explained.

"Novak is a legend of our sport. If someone says that he goes onto the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies. Of course, playing a semifinal of a Grand Slam, you have a lot of nerves, but even more, facing Novak. That's the truth."

Since it was not allowed within Grand Slam rules to take a medical timeout outside of a changeover, the Spaniard was subsequently docked the game to hand Djokovic a 2-1 lead in the set.

"I think we were both at the physical limit, to be honest, toward the end of the second set, I wasn't feeling fresh at all. We went toe to toe," Djokovic said after the victory.

The 22-time major title holder started the match in a clinical way, striking his groundstrokes through the court with depth, while he moved forward consistently, closing the net 13 times in the set to pressure Alcaraz.

After breaking in the fourth game, the Serbian fended off three break points in a mammoth game at 4-2 before finalising the set 6-4.

At 1-1 in the second set, Alcaraz demonstrated his all-court game to full effect. He showcased great speed and touch to chase down a Djokovic drop shot, before retrieving to the baseline to hit fire a squash-like behind-the-body forehand winner, drawing applause from the Serbian.

The reigning US Open champion gradually found his form in the second set, even after squandering three set points in the 10th game, he was able to break at a love game in the 12th to win the set.

Then came the turning point in the third set when Alcaraz was hit by the cramp.

The Serbian took eleven of the last 12 games, running away to finish the semifinal - which seemed to be an epic one after two sets, but ending in a one-side style which was far away from everyone's expectation.

"I feel for him. I feel sorry. I hope he can recover very soon," Djokovic said. "I told him at the net, he knows how young he is. He has plenty of time ahead of him. He's going to win this tournament, I'm sure, many, many times."

"Not the best way to end the match for him, but respect for him for hanging in there until the last point, really. It was obvious that he was struggling with his movement," the 36-year-old said.

"It's unfortunate for the crowd, it's unfortunate for the match of this importance for both of us, but that's a sport. You know, it happens when you play on extremely high intensity as we both did I think for the first two sets. It was so even."

Two-time clay-court major winner Djokovic will face last year's runner-up Casper Ruud in the final. The Norwegian fourth seed beat Alexander Zverev in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 to reach his third Grand Slam final.