Novak Djokovic has advanced to the French Open final with a dramatic 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 victory over Carlos Alcaraz as he bids to win a 23rd Grand Slam title.
The duo were tipped as the outright favourites before the tournament started and after being placed on the same side of the draw, their projected semi-final showdown became the most highly anticipated tennis match of the year so far.
It promised to be an intriguing battle between Djokovic – one of the greatest players ever and taking part in his 45th major semi-final – and world No.1 Alcaraz, arguably the best current player on the clay surface, with 16 years separating the pair and Djokovic turning professional the same year Alcaraz was born in 2003.
Ultimately it was Djokovic who came out on top as Alcaraz struggled with cramp and his victory means he will now face Alexander Zverev or Casper Ruud in the Roland-Garros final on Sunday – as he looks to win the 23rd major men’s singles title of his career – and overtake Rafael Nadal for the most in the history of tennis.
Djokovic made a strong start and broke Alcaraz to go 4-1 up while the Spaniard wasted four break-point opportunities in the first set and was unable to hide his frustration at his performance, loudly yelling at his box, as the Serbian took it 6-3.
With Djokovic having won his last 99 Grand Slam matches after winning the opening set, Alcaraz needed a miracle to inspire a comeback, and it almost came in the second set when the 36-year-old appeared to hurt his right wrist – requiring a medical time-out – and looked vulnerable as Alcaraz registered his first break.
That gave the 20-year-old the opportunity to serve for the second set but Djokovic broke him for the second time in the match as the irritated world No.1 threw his racket on the floor. The world No.1 then squandered three set-point opportunities at 5-4 and Djokovic wildly celebrated after levelling it at 5-5.
Alcaraz then held serve and in the following game, he raced into a 40-0 lead on the Djokovic serve but did not require multiple set points on this occasion, hitting a successful drop shot to claim the second set 7-5 to make it one-apiece.
Djokovic opted to go for a toilet break ahead of the third set, booed by the crowd as the left and returned to the court, and there was more drama as Alcaraz suffered badly with cramping – unable to move and clearly in pain as he required treatment – which meant that he had to forfeit the game on his own serve.
Alcaraz seems to be cramping in the third set ð
Djokovic came to check on him â¤ï¸#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/SmJ73P233h
Alcaraz was still struggling and looked sapped of all energy as Djokovic went 4-1 up, shaking his head towards his team, and there were genuine fears Alcaraz could retire from the match. The Spaniard battled through the pain but Djokovic eased past him in the next two games to comfortably win the third set 6-1.
Alcaraz decided to take a toilet break and perhaps receive more treatment off the court, moving a little more freely in the early stages of the fourth set after he returned, but Djokovic broke him and raced into a 5-0 lead, again booed by the crowd after he celebrated, before closing it out 6-1 to reach the final in Paris.
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