06/07 12:34 CDT Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic will meet in a
youth-vs.-experience clash at the French Open
Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic will meet in a youth-vs.-experience clash at
the French Open
By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Tennis Writer
PARIS (AP) --- Two weeks ago, before the start of play at the French Open, the
brackets were set for the tournament, and one possible semifinal matchup
immediately demanded attention: No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, the Next Big Thing in
men's tennis, against No. 3 Novak Djokovic, the Current Big Thing in men's
The heightened anticipation was not merely because it would be fascinating to
see the two of them play at Roland Garros. It also would be fascinating to see
them play each other, period: They've only met once, and it was 13 months ago,
with Alcaraz coming out on top.
So get ready: Alcaraz and Djokovic will finally share the stage again on Friday
in Court Philippe Chatrier, where they will compete for a spot in the
"Since the draw came out, everyone was expecting that match --- the semifinal
against Novak. Myself, as well," Alcaraz said after completing his half of the
bargain by outclassing Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (5) in the
quarterfinals Tuesday night. "I really want to play that match."
A moment later, Alcaraz observed: "If you want to be the best, you have to beat
That echoed, word for word, the phrase Djokovic uttered hours earlier as he
looked ahead after beating Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday:
"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."
The other men's pairing in the final four will include No. 22 Alexander Zverev,
who advanced to that round in Paris for the third consecutive time by defeating
Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Two years ago, Zverev lost to
Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets; last year, Zverev left the stadium in a
wheelchair after tearing ligaments in his right ankle late in the second set
against Rafael Nadal.
"It was the most difficult year of my life, for sure," said Zverev, runner-up
at the 2020 US. Open. "I'm so happy to be back at this stage."
He now takes on No. 4 Casper Ruud or No. 6 Holger Rune, whose quarterfinal was
scheduled for Wednesday night.
The only previous instance of Alcaraz vs. Djokovic came on May 7, 2022, on red
clay at the Madrid Masters. Alcaraz had eliminated Nadal in the previous round,
and his 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) victory over Djokovic made the Spaniard the first
player to beat those two titans of the sport at the same clay tournament.
The tennis world already knew about Alcaraz, but that truly announced his
arrival. He would go on to win his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in
September and become the first teenager to finish a season at No. 1 in the
"He is ready to try to do big things (in) tennis. I don't know if it's going to
be this tournament but, of course, I think he is ready," said Alcaraz's coach,
2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. "He dreams very big about what
he can do, so I think it's one of the most important things that he believes in
himself and that he believes that he can go to the court and win against
So why does everyone care so much about this particular match?
One player, Alcaraz, is seen as a star of the future.
The other, Djokovic, is still very much a star of the present: His championship
at the Australian Open in January was his 10th in a span of 19 majors (Nadal
collected six of those; three other players took one apiece, including Alcaraz).
Alcaraz is 20; Djokovic is 36.
In sports, it can help to be the one with the younger body.
Djokovic owns 22 Grand Slam titles, tied with Nadal for the most in the history
of men's tennis; Alcaraz owns one. Friday will mark Djokovic's 45th appearance
in a major semifinal and Alcaraz's second.
In sports, it can help to be the one with the more extensive know-how.
"Well, one has experience; the other one has legs," was Tsitsipas' assessment.
"One can hit huge, super-big shots, and the other one prefers control over
anything else, probably control and precision, to apply pressure and just make
the opponent move as much as possible."
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