PARIS—No player has come close to establishing a domination in men’s tennis since the Big Three started their reign in the mid-2000s, but Carlos Alcaraz has all it takes to grab the crown for himself at the French Open.
The Spaniard has been inspiring fear and dropping jaws at Roland Garros, and his take-no-prisoner approach faces the ultimate test on Friday in his semi-final clash against Novak Djokovic, who at 36 is hanging on to his dream of claiming a record-breaking 23rd men’s Grand Slam title.
At stake is the world number one spot, currently occupied by the 20-year-old Alcaraz, who needs to go past the Serbian to retain it while Djokovic must win the title to get back to the top.
With Roger Federer retired and Rafael Nadal having at best a whole season left ahead of him, Djokovic is the last man standing in the Big Three, who have won a staggering 64 of the last 78 majors.
The two-time French Open champion has been his usual metronomic self on the Parisian clay, where his defense system will come under heavy fire against Alcaraz.
The top seed has dismantled Italian talent Lorenzo Musetti and Grand Slam hopeful Stefanos Tsitsipas on his way to the last four, playing at a rarely-seen level against the Greek, although he was too casual in the last games.
Alcaraz called the masterclass ‘one of the best’ matches of his career and he will need another against Djokovic, who will not let any lapse in concentration go unpunished.
While excitement will be at its peak for Alcaraz, who won his maiden Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open last year before missing the Australian Open injured, the Spaniard is fully aware of his opponent’s resume.
“It’s going to be his 45th semi-final in a Grand Slam. This is going to be my second,” said Alcaraz, who is on a 12-match winning streak at majors.
Djokovic will need to make some adjustments to be ready for the Alcaraz storm on court Philippe Chatrier, having made a slow start against Kharen Kachanov in the previous round.
“I definitely need to have a better start in the semis,” he said.
In the other semi-final, last year’s runner-up Casper Ruud, who has steadily made his way to the last four, takes on Alexander Zverev.
The 22nd-seeded German will also play his third consecutive semi-final at Roland Garros, a year after his Parisian challenge ended in dramatic fashion when he retired against Nadal screaming in agony with a freakish ankle injury.
“It was definitely a tournament that I marked on my calendar this year,” said Zverev.
“I’m happy to be playing the way I’m playing here in Paris. I’m extremely happy with how things are going, but the tournament is not over yet.”
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