The former Serbian world number 1 qualifies for his seventh final at the French Open at the expense of Carlos Alcaraz, injured in a calf.
At Roland Garros
For two sets, the first semi-final of the French Open was, under the watchful eye of Mike Tyson, a peak of commitment and intensity. Heavy blows and a few sublime points stirred up uneven rounds that, in a scorching arena, put Duelists to the test. At the start of the 3rd set, crimson face, dark eyes, Novak Djokovic was looking for a second wind. The Serbian strategist seemed to be hanging by a thread. The match was ready to change but, on a forehand in return of service, Carlos Alcaraz was bitten by a cramp in the right calf. The Spaniard chose to lose the points of his service game to take advantage of care, to try to regain balance and tone. Illustration of the physical and psychological intensity of the standoff that had attacked the organisms. And final turning point. Too diminished, the world number 1 was no longer able to compete (6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1, 3:23). He had to make do with limited runs, quick strikes.
Indestructible. Timeless. Novak Djokovic will experience his seventh final at Roland-Garros on Sunday. He will aim for a third title (after 2016 and 2021), could become the first player in the Open era to win all four Grand Slam tournaments at least three times and could take advantage of his 34th major final (a record of its kind) to cap the laurels of a 23rd major title (one more than Rafael Nadal and three more than Roger Federer). To enroll in capitals in the legend, to get closer to his quest: to rise above all the others, all eras combined. And find its place of number 1 in the ATP ranking.
Carlos Alcaraz will long regret the twist that deprives him of the desire to succeed his prestigious compatriot Rafael Nadal (14 titles, including 5 of the last 6 editions). Like when in 1982, blond curls dancing above a steely gaze, the Swede Mats Wilander, just out of the juniors proposed to succeed his legendary compatriot, Björn Borg…
electricity in the air
Three hours before the match, there was electricity in the air. In the sun-drenched aisles, the awaited standoff crept into all the discussions. The impatience bounced endlessly because the poster carried the idea that the lines could move. After the players shared the cheers, the court suddenly seemed very large for them, the event and the conditions (wind) difficult to tame. The weight of waiting penalized Alcaraz from the start, arm tied, tight heart, frozen smile, suffering expression (15 unforced errors in the 1st set). Djokovic, not totally relaxed, relying on his experience, gave the game his rhythm, his concentration, his breathing, his accelerations, his inspirations, his variations (8 points out of 14 scored on the net).
Carlos Alcaraz gradually got out of the grip of the event and the grip of his opponent from the start of the 2nd set by scoring a spectacular point. A forehand shot back to the net after a long slide. A model of power, balance and audacity. A flash that deprived Dkjokovic of reaction and allowed Alcaraz to remove his ties to play free.
But Djokovic who, in the morning during the training session had worked on the second balls for a long time (especially on the T) continued to play with accuracy. By instilling the poison of doubt into the high-precision mechanics that its rival roars by relying on mad dashes. Until the breakdown.
The pride of a champion who never gives up
Novak Djokovic was able, as usual, to rely on his backhand, the barometer of his domination. He offered him the regularity, the length and the variety to scramble the cards, cut off his young rival’s legs, deprive him of the technical springboard, of the emotional spring of the sequence of spectacular blows. His knowledge of the game has long allowed him to hold the reins of the game, to rule out many break points from his rival with method. He who also needed a medical time out to treat a painful right elbow. An episode reminiscent of a nagging pain evoked in the spring during the tournaments of Monte-Carlo and Rome. A fragility. A doubt. A difficulty coinciding with a physical decline. Body disarticulated by the repetition of strikes, he suffered against the speed and energy of his young rival. But he was able to hang on with the pride of a champion who never gives up…
Men’s semi-finals: Djokovic (Ser, 3)-Alcaraz (Esp, 3) 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-; Ruud (Nor, 4)-Zverev (G, 22).