NEW DELHI: Novak Djokovic relied on his vast experience, unwavering determination, and exceptional fitness to emerge victorious over a struggling Carlos Alcaraz with a scoreline of 6-2, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 in the French Open semi-finals on Friday in Paris.
This win propelled Djokovic, at the age of 36, to become the second oldest men’s finalist in the history of the French Open.
Furthermore, it brought him closer to a remarkable achievement of securing his 23rd Grand Slam title, surpassing the current record he shares with Rafael Nadal.
Having previously won the Roland Garros tournament twice, Djokovic now stands on the verge of breaking the men’s Grand Slam title record, should he prevail against either Casper Ruud or Alexander Zverev in the upcoming final scheduled for Sunday.
If successful, Djokovic would not only surpass Nadal’s record but also become the oldest champion in the history of the tournament.
Additionally, a victory in the final would allow Djokovic to reclaim the coveted number one ranking, which is currently held by Alcaraz, who faced severe limitations due to cramps in the latter two sets of their encounter.
“First and foremost I have to say tough luck for Carlos, because at this level the last thing you want is cramp, physical problems at the last stages of a Grand Slam,” said Djokovic.
“I feel for him, I feel sorry and I hope he can recover.”
“Respect for him in fighting until the end. I told him at the net that he is very young and he will win this many times.”
He added: “He was the better player in the second set. I knew I had to be more aggressive and then match and better his intensity.”
Alcaraz’s physical struggles significantly diminished the suspense that had characterised the match, even though he valiantly attempted to continue after an exhilarating first two sets.
The opening set saw Djokovic assert his dominance, but Alcaraz managed to level the match in the second set.
However, the turning point came when the 20-year-old suddenly pulled up, clutching his right calf, during Djokovic’s service game at 1-1 in the third set. Recognising his physical limitations, Alcaraz opted to concede the next game to Djokovic rather than endure further hardship until the changeover.
From that point onwards, Alcaraz’s performance declined significantly. The energetic and unwavering player who had begun the match was now hampered by restricted movement, allowing Djokovic to breeze through the remainder of the set with relative ease.
Although Alcaraz returned for the fourth set after a bathroom break, he appeared slightly more mobile. Nevertheless, any remaining resistance from the young Spaniard faded away after Djokovic saved a breakpoint in the opening game.