It was Carlos Alcaraz, not Novak Djokovic, who asked the “How did he do that?” The shot in the semi-finals of the French Open that went viral within minutes and would be talked about for years.
It was 20-year-old Alcaraz, not 36-year-old Djokovic, who had the youth, of course, with the biggest age difference in Grand Slam semifinal history going back to 1991. It was Alcaraz, not Djokovic, who at the start of a hot 29-degree afternoon on Court Philippe Chatrier complained to his coach that the points were not long enough to wear down his opponent.
And yet, it was Alcaraz, not Djokovic, who succumbed to the heat and intensity and, by his own admission, the nerves of the occasion. It was the Spaniard, not the Serbian, whose physique betrayed him. And so, it will be third seed Djokovic, not number one Alcaraz, who will continue to play in Paris with a chance to add a trophy to his collection.
Djokovic used all his experience, tirelessness and his physical condition to beat a tight Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 at Roland Garros on Friday to claim his 23rd Grand Slam title. Victory stepped in. Which would be a record breaking his tie with Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic said, “I can understand the feelings and the circumstances that affect you mentally and emotionally…probably for the first time in his career he was expected to win.” “It’s part of the learning curve.”
“I had never felt the tension I felt in this match,” Alcaraz admitted, adding that the tension he felt was due to what was at stake and the huge opponent he had on the other side of the net. Cramps everywhere in my” body”.
“He’s been in that position many times, many times more than I have,” he said. “There was extra stress from the start and it takes a toll on you… Novak squeezes you to the max, he pushes you to the limit little by little.”
On Sunday, Djokovic will face fourth seed Kasper Ruud, who beat No. 22 Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.
Ruud will be playing in his third final at the last five majors, including Roland Garros last year when he lost to Nadal, but he is still searching for his maiden Grand Slam trophy.
Rudd said, “I tried to play calmly without too much pressure.”
Nadal missed his favorite tournament this year due to a hip injury.
That left the public’s attention on two men over the past two weeks: Djokovic, who has won 10 of the last 19 major tournaments, and Alcaraz, who won the US Open in September. Djokovic is one of the most influential figures in the history of the sport; Alcaraz is considered to be futuristic.
And they certainly put on quite a performance during two rousing and grueling sets, with fans breaking out in chants of both men’s nicknames: “No-lay!” and “Kar-li-kuff!”
Djokovic was at his best, sliding, landing groundstrokes that pushed Alcaraz and moved him across the court.
Alcaraz somehow chased down almost everything, his speed and instincts at their peak.
Nothing was as spectacular as that shot from Alcaraz. Shot of the day, shot of the tournament, shot of the year.
This happened when they were tied 1-1 in the second set. After trapping Alcaraz in the net, Djokovic sent the ball towards the baseline. Many players would have given up at that point and decided to move on to the next one. Or maybe try to get to the ball and miss. Alcaraz followed, ran back to the net, and then slid over the line, turning on his left foot as he stopped and twisting his body, rolling backward to pass Djokovic’s forehand for a game-winner. hunched over.
As the fans whooped and stood to cheer the play, Alcaraz raised his left hand and raised his index finger in a fleeting “number one” gesture.
The Spaniard smiled widely.
Even Djokovic had to smile and clap his racket.
But everything changed in the third set.
Right after missing a forehand return to tie the score at 1-1, Alcaraz extended his hand. This was clearly bothering him. After a forehand, he hopped on his right foot, then grabbed his calf. He dropped his racket on the ground. Judge Aurelie Tourte came to examine him. So Djokovic was walking towards Alcaraz.
Medical attention for an injury, which the rules call “an acute medical condition”, is permitted during a match. But receiving treatment for cramps when it is not time to change service is not allowed without penalty. So Tourte told Alcaraz that he could sit out and get medical attention, but he would have to leave the next game, which he did.
When the scores were updated and Djokovic went ahead 2–1 without playing any points, the crowd cheered, whistling and hooting until Tourette explained in French what had happened.
“From that moment on,” Djokovic said, “it was a different match.”
Alcaraz can only win one more game … and Djokovic who has the opportunity to continue playing.