With a 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 triumph over an injured Carlos Alcaraz in the French Open semi-final on Friday, Novak Djokovic took a giant step closer to winning a record 23rd men’s Grand Slam title.
After leveling the match at 1-1 in the third set, world number one Alcaraz collapsed to his bench while holding his right leg.
The US Open winner was obviously struggling as he continued to play, but Djokovic was unforgiving, dropping only one of 12 games to secure a position in Sunday’s match against either Casper Ruud, last year’s runner-up, or German Alexander Zverev.
Alcaraz, who missed the Australian Open this year due to a hamstring ailment, wasn’t sure if he had cramps or was hurt.
The 34th Grand Slam final Djokovic will compete in will be his seventh in Roland Garros, where he won the Musketeers’ Cup twice, in 2016 and 2021.
The 36-year-old was about to put his skills to the ultimate test against Alcaraz, who had bulldozed through the draw, when the machine abruptly broke down.
“Tough luck for Carlos. Obviously at this level, the last thing you want is cramps and physical problems in the last stages of a Grand Slam,” said Djokovic, who was in his 46th semi-final at a major.
“It was probably difficult for him to decide whether he should retire or continue until the last point but he’s a fighter, so respect to him for that.”
The much anticipated match began with Djokovic going for the kill and broke for 3-1 before holding off four break attempts to win the first set after almost an hour.
In the second set, Djokovic was on the ropes due to Alcaraz’s amazing shots as Mike Tyson watched from the stands as both athletes traded punches.
After trading breaks, the 20-year-old Spaniard equalized as Djokovic appeared to be losing steam after overcooking a forehand.
“It is not easy to maintain that intensity,” said Djokovic, who has now won his last 100 Grand Slam matches in which he bagged the opening set.
“Towards the end of the second set he was the better player. I had to be aggressive, to take the ball early otherwise he would be the aggressive one. He is very fast, very dynamic so I had to match that and do even better, which was very exhausting.”
However, in a match that had the potential to be a classic, it was the body of the youngest player that gave in first.