Djokovic, Alcaraz set up French Open semifinal blockbuster

Paris, Jun 6 (EFE).- Serbian great Novak Djokovic and Spanish world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz scored French Open quarterfinal victories on Tuesday to book the match-up the entire tennis world will be eager to witness later this week.

Of the two, Alcaraz was clearly the more impressive at the final-eight stage of tennis’ clay-court Grand Slam, overwhelming No. 5 seed and 2021 Roland Garros runner-up, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, over the first two and half sets before wrapping up a 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) victory in just two hours and 12 minutes.

That night match on Court Philippe-Chatrier was expected by many to be closely contested, but the top-seeded Alcaraz broke his opponent’s serve in the third game of the match with a forehand winner and was off and running.

Showcasing his full repertoire of weapons, the Spaniard clinched the first set with an easy service hold and then snagged an early service-break lead at the start of the second set.

Alcaraz targeted Tsitipas’ backhand repeatedly throughout the match to elicit short balls that he attacked either with potent topspin forehand blasts to the corners or delicate, cleverly disguised drop shots.

The Greek player simply had no answer for that bread-and-butter tactic and seemed more and more deflated as Alcaraz’s lead widened.

To his credit, Tsitsipas kept fighting and managed to rally from a 4-1 deficit to force a tiebreaker, a stretch during which he staved off three match points.

Eventually though, Alcaraz’s superiority on the backhand side and all-court game proved too much to overcome as the Spaniard clinched victory with a volley winner.

“I believe in myself all the time. I would say that’s the most important thing,” the 20-year-old Spanish superstar said afterward about his electrifying performance. “I always think that I’m going to play these kind of matches in this level. I would say that’s the key of everything.”

Earlier Tuesday, Djokovic was a couple notches below his peak level for most of the first two sets of his quarterfinal match against Karen Khachanov.

The 11th-seeded Russian broke serve in the fifth game of the opening set with an inside-out forehand winner and rode that advantage to a first-set victory.

He then continued to control his serve as the third-seeded Djokovic, considered by many to have the greatest return of serve of all time, failed to produce a single break point in any of his opponent’s first 11 service games.

But a strong tiebreaker by Djokovic proved to be the turning point in the match, as he earned a quick mini-break with a backhand passing shot winner and evened the contest at a set apiece a few points later with a volley winner.

Then at the start of the third set, the Serbian finally broke through against Khachanov’s serve by winning a nine-and-a-half minute opening game.

A second service break a few games later gave Djokovic full control of the match.

The Serbian continued to strike the ball crisply at the start of the fourth set en route to an early 3-1 lead.

And although a loose service game allowed Khachanov to draw level at 4-4, Djokovic broke once again by making effective use of the drop shot and then served an ace on his first match point to book his spot in Friday’s semifinals.

“I think he was the better player for most of the (first) two sets. I was struggling to find my rhythm. I made a lot of unforced errors and came into the match quite slow, quite sluggish,” the 22-time Grand Slam champion said afterward.

“But I played the perfect tiebreak, really, and from that moment I played a couple of levels higher than I did at the beginning.”

In women’s quarterfinal action on Tuesday, Czech Karolina Muchova reached her second career Grand Slam semifinal with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over 2021 Roland Garros runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.

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