Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of the first French Open men’s semi-final between Novak Djokovic, who began the year by winning the Australian Open, his 22nd slam title, and Carlos Alcaraz, who rounded off last year by winning his first at the US Open.
Alcaraz, “the most complete 20-year-old I have ever seen” according to John McEnroe, made very short work of Stefanos Tsitsipas in a 6-2, 6-1. 7-6 victory, utilising that astonishing array of shots to drive his opponent to distraction, mainly with that formidable forehand drop shot. He is the No1 seed and favourite, despite Djokovic’s record, relish for the fight and undiminished ability to resemble a giant octopus wrestling allcomers to eventual suffocation.
“He deserves his success, no doubt,” said Djokovic of Alcaraz. “He’s working hard and he’s a very complete player already and only 20. So we played only once in Madrid last year, 7-6 in the third for him. Most of the tournaments this year we were not in the same draw but here we are.
“That’s the match that a lot of people want to see. It’s definitely the biggest challenge for me so far in the tournament. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. He’s definitely a guy to beat here. I’m looking forward to that.”
They both reached the semi-finals dropping only one set but, Alcaraz has been the more impressive, spending three-and-a-half hours less on court than Djokovic in his five matches so far.
The Murcian chico spoke of his excitement at finally playing Djokovic again after their solitary meeting last year, which he won by the barest of margins at the Madrid Open, 67, 7-5, 7-6. “Since the draw came out,” he said, “everyone was expecting that match, the semi-final against Novak. Myself as well. I really want to play that match. Since last year I really wanted to play again against Novak. We both are playing a great level. I’m going to enjoy it.
“Of course, for me, it’s amazing to make history, playing a semi-final with such a legend like Novak. So it’s going to be a great match for me. I would say the match we played last year doesn’t affect too much this one. We both learned a lot from that match, so it’s going to be totally different, and let’s see what happens on Friday.”
We’re about to find out.