Step aside Rafa Nadal, the French Open has another Spanish clay court maestro in the form of Carlos Alcaraz. The World No.1 continued his blistering campaign at Roland Garros with a brutal straight-sets victory over 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas to set up a mouthwatering showdown with Novak Djokovic in the last-four.
Djokovic - the 22-time grand slam champion bidding to overtake Nadal as the single greatest men's major winner of all time - overcame a first-set blip to hiccup to beat Karen Khachanov 4-6 7-6 (7-0) 6-2 6-4 in his quarter-final clash. It sets up a blockbuster semi-final between one of the greatest players of all time, and the man considered by many to be his heir apparent.
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"This match is what everyone wanted to watch and it is going to be a really good match to play and to watch," Alcaraz said of Friday's semi-final after seeing off Tsitsipas with relative ease. "If you want to be the best you have to beat the best and (Djokovic) is one of the best players in the world."
Alcaraz had a third-set wobble but was otherwise largely untroubled in the 6-2 6-1 7-6 (7-5) drubbing of fifth seed Tsitsipas. The Spanish star did not take long to put Tsitsipas under pressure, breaking him on his second service game. The 24-year-old Tsitsipas, still searching for an elusive first grand slam title, could not match Alcaraz's power and precision and the Spaniard broke him to love with a sensational running forehand down the line to go 5-2 up.
He wrapped up the first set, winning 12 of the last 14 points played but was equally relentless in the second to break Tsitsipas in the very first game to love. He added another break to go 4-1 up and even the crowd, clearly backing Tsitsipas, could not spark a comeback as Alcaraz bagged the second set when his dazed opponent double-faulted.
Eurosport's Tim Henman labelled the display from Tsitsipas "borderline embarrassing" but the reality is the Spanish young gun has been playing at a level described by many viewers as "scary" at Roland Garros. Even Djokovic fans took to social media in awe of Alcaraz's levels and suggested the Serb could have few answers for the Spaniard's brilliance when they meet in the last-four.
#RolandGarros Alcaraz is blend of Nadal and Djokovic. Very scary.
— Atif Aslam (@aatifaslem) June 6, 2023
I think we need to understand the level alcaraz is at! It’s scary good. It doesn’t matter about history. Alcaraz isn’t fazed by big matches and won’t choke like other players. I just hope Novak can play well and push him. I think he loses but Novak will comeback strong again.
— Mark Lundie (@MarkLundie1) June 6, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz is quite scary good. A dominant beast. Hard to believe at times
— Sand_Mack (@mack_sand) June 6, 2023
Scary seeing this if your Tsitsipas. Coming up against Alcaraz for the next 15 years must have all the young guns terrified. He’s winning 20+ slams and going down with the greats. Special to watch.
— B3NNYJ98 (@B3NNYJ98) June 6, 2023
Alcaraz is gonna destroy Djokovic I know it 😭 This level is too good. #RolandGarros
— Liam (@Liam_96___) June 6, 2023
Don't forget Djokovic beat Nadal at #RolandGarros in 2021. Write him off at your peril. Alcaraz is an insane young talent, has conditions in his favour, but Djokovic has invaluable experience. Lots riding on it for Djokovic - he will peak. Thrilling, brutal match in prospect. pic.twitter.com/mZKbvxfzJQ
— DanRodenby (@DRodenbyTennis) June 6, 2023
Heart tells me - Alcaraz is significantly better at the moment. Head tells me - Djokovic will find ways to take him into deep waters)
— PointsOfView (@PointsOfView23) June 6, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic to meet in epic semi-final
Alcaraz was forced to overcome a slight third set blip after holding a 5-1 lead and squandering three match points as Tsitsipas stormed back to win four games in a row, before sending the third set into a tiebreak. The Spaniard finally ended the Greek star's late surge on his fifth match point.
"I lost my focus a little bit (in the third set) ... it was pretty tough at the end of the match," Alcaraz said. "Believing in myself all the time, that's the most important thing. I always think that I am going to play these kinds of matches at this level. The key is to enjoy."
Djokovic - a two-time winner at Roland Garros - initially struggled to find a weakness in 11th-seed Khachanov's serve but once he took the second set tiebreak there was no looking back. In his opening set, Djokovic did not have a single break opportunity but his metronomic game eventually clicked and there was little the Russian could do to stop his opponent's march into the last four.
"He was the better player for most of the first two sets, I was struggling to find my rhythm, I came into this a bit sluggish," Djokovic said. "Then I played a perfect tiebreak and from that moment onwards I played a couple of levels higher. It was a big fight but that's what you expect from a grand slam quarter-final."
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