Carlos Alcaraz Levels Roland Garros SF Against Novak Djokovic | | Tennis
Carlos Alcaraz has won the second set in his Roland Garros semi-final clash against Novak Djokovic. After the Serbian moved ahead, the Spaniard fought back to level at 3-6, 7-5.
The 36-year-old Djokovic came out firing in the generational battle on Court Philippe-Chatrier, pulling the 20-year-old Alcaraz around with destructive and consistent groundstrokes to lead.
Alcaraz started to find his rhythm in the second set, though, demonstrating great touch around the net and power from the baseline. Alcaraz recovered from squandering three set points on Djokovic's serve at 4-5, eventually converting his fourth set point to level after two hours and 10 minutes.
Meeting for the first time this season, Alcaraz and Djokovic have waged a neck-and-neck battle in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in 2023, trading the top spot four times. If World No. 1 Alcaraz can maintain his level and prevail against Djokovic, he will remain atop tennis’ mountain following the clay-court event.
Djokovic is chasing a double prize in Paris this weekend. If he lifts a record 23rd major men’s singles trophy, he will return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday.
The two-time Roland Garros champion Djokovic, who has dropped just one set en route to the semi-finals, is aiming to reach his seventh title match in Paris. If he can level his ATP Head2Head series against Alcaraz at 1-1, he will become the second-oldest finalist in tournament history (since 1925).
Sixteen years his junior, Alcaraz is the youngest man to advance to the semi-finals at Roland Garros since a then-20-year-old Djokovic did in 2007. The top seed is seeking his second major title, which would make it two trophies in as many major appearances for the reigning US Open champion Alcaraz, who missed the Australian Open with a leg injury.
Alcaraz has demonstrated his all-court game throughout the past week in Paris, defeating seeds Denis Shapovalov, Lorenzo Musetti and Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets to move within two wins of becoming the youngest Roland Garros champion since Rafael Nadal won the title aged 20 in 2006.
Djokovic was locked in from ball one in Friday's encounter. He struck his groundstrokes through the court with depth, while he moved forward consistently, closing the net 13 times in the set to pressurise Alcaraz. After breaking in the fourth game, the Serbian fended off three break points in a mammoth game at 4-2 as Alcaraz began to find rhythm from the baseline. The top seed then held serve to lead.
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.
Alcaraz started to dig in during the baseline exchanges, playing with high intensity as his power began to force Djokovic, who received a medical timeout in the set, to overhit. The 20-year-old made 68 per cent of first serves in the set and recovered from squandering three set points on Djokovic’s serve at 4-5, 0/40, breaking the Serbian at 6-5 to level.
Of Alcaraz's 17 career Top 10 wins, 16 of them have come after winning the first set. His only Top 10 victory after losing the first set came against Djokovic in their first ATP Head2Head meeting in Madrid last year, with Alcaraz triumphing 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5).
Djokovic holds a 79-4 record when winning the first set at Roland Garros, winning 34 in a row. His last loss after claiming the opener came in the 2015 final against Stan Wawrinka. The winner will face Casper Ruud or Alexander Zverev in Sunday's final.