One week ago, the French Open commenced with 128 men embarking on their singles campaign. However, all eyes have been primarily fixated on just two players.
On Sunday, Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic moved a step closer to a potential semifinal clash. They convincingly defeated their overmatched opponents, who struggled to even secure points, let alone win sets, in consecutive matches. The packed Philippe Chatrier court witnessed these commanding performances, offering a glimpse of the anticipated spectacle that may unfold before the week concludes.
n the first match, Djokovic faced Juan Pablo Varillas, a 27-year-old Peruvian who has primarily competed in lower-level tournaments throughout his career. Prior to this year’s French Open, Varillas had never experienced victory in a match within the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament. Unfortunately, his fairytale run came to a conclusion against Djokovic. The match lasted 1 hour and 57 minutes, with Djokovic efficiently securing a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory without exerting any unnecessary energy.
Djokovic made his intentions clear, stating, “I know what my goal is here,” without needing to elaborate further.
Next, it was time for Alcaraz, the 20-year-old world No. 1, to take the court against Lorenzo Musetti, an Italian player just ten months older, known for his flashy style of play.
The match between Alcaraz and Musetti lasted 2 hours and 8 minutes, resulting in an identical score of 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in favor of Alcaraz.
Alcaraz described this match as his best performance in the tournament thus far.
For over a year, Djokovic, a 22-time Grand Slam singles champion, and Alcaraz, the rising star who secured his first major title at the U.S. Open last year, seemed to miss each other’s presence.
At times, one of them would be eliminated from the tournament before reaching the stage where they could potentially face each other. Due to Djokovic’s decision to not receive the Covid-19 vaccine, he had to skip the hard court events in North America last summer and this spring. When Djokovic finally made his comeback during the fall season and the Australian summer, Alcaraz was dealing with an injury, resulting in their paths not crossing each other.
Currently, there are only six sets standing between Alcaraz and Djokovic potentially facing each other in the semifinals on Friday. Alcaraz’s next challenge is to defeat the fifth seed, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, in their upcoming match on Tuesday. Interestingly, Alcaraz has emerged victorious in all four of their previous encounters.
In contrast, Djokovic will be pitted against Karen Khachanov, the 11th seed from Russia. The two players have competed against each other on nine occasions, with Djokovic emerging victorious in eight of those encounters.
However, the semifinal clash between Alcaraz and Djokovic is not guaranteed. Even the best players can have off days, and both Tsitsipas and Khachanov particularly enjoy playing on clay, making them formidable opponents. Djokovic has also been dealing with a sore elbow recently, while Alcaraz has shown vulnerability to injuries in the past eight months. Upsets are always a possibility in tennis.
Despite these uncertainties, the performances displayed by Djokovic and Alcaraz on Sunday, along with their own assessments of their games, have created an atmosphere of almost inevitable anticipation for their potential showdown.
Djokovic has earned a reputation as a skilled tactician when it comes to managing matches in Grand Slam tournaments, where players must triumph in seven best-of-five-set matches to secure the championship. He strategically plays at a level of energy expenditure, both physically and emotionally, that he deems necessary for each match and only ramps it up when required.
Many of Djokovic’s winners on Sunday were executed with angles that Varillas failed to anticipate, lacking the speed and precision that Djokovic typically showcases against other opponents.
Within the first 20 minutes of the match, Djokovic had already taken a commanding 4-0 lead, leaving Varillas, who had never faced someone of Djokovic’s caliber before, struggling to find his footing.
Varillas commented on the challenging dynamics of the match, stating, “With one ball, you find yourself being aggressive, and then suddenly, with the next ball, he completely changes the direction, forcing you into a defensive position.”
Djokovic is no stranger to being in this position, just one match away from a highly anticipated showdown with one of the sport’s prominent figures, often either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. In the preceding year, Djokovic found himself in a quarterfinal encounter against Nadal, a formidable opponent who also possesses 22 Grand Slam singles titles to his name. In the year prior, Nadal posed a significant threat as he approached the semifinals. Both of those matches materialized as anticipated matchups.
Djokovic made it clear that he has been paying attention to what lies ahead beyond the next match. He acknowledged that he always keeps an eye on the top players in his half of the draw and observes how they are performing. He admitted to analyzing everyone’s game while emphasizing his focus on his own performance.
While he remains primarily focused on himself, Djokovic stated that he does take into account what the other players are doing.
The “others” in question refer to Alcaraz, who, due to his youthful approach, approaches his matches with a different perspective than energy conservation. Instead, Alcaraz aims to create an exhilarating spectacle on the court.
Alcaraz eagerly anticipated his match against Musetti on Sunday, and his face lit up with a smile as he spoke about facing another talented and flashy young player. He expressed his excitement for engaging in thrilling rallies and showcasing impressive shots, emphasizing that it will be an enjoyable match to watch.
The importance of putting on a show can be just as significant to Alcaraz as winning itself. Rarely does he pass up the opportunity to sprint towards a drop shot, chase down a lob, or attempt a shot between his legs, even if it means giving his opponent an easy overhead that he will still make an effort to retrieve. While he is the one creating magical moments on the court, he also happens to be their biggest admirer.
Following his victory on Sunday, Alcaraz admitted that after delivering his best shots, he sometimes desires to glance up at the stadium’s big screen and relish the replay alongside the crowd and the viewers watching from home.
“Many times,” he confessed.
There are only six more sets to go. After that, Alcaraz and Djokovic will finally have the opportunity to present the spectacle that Roland Garros has been eagerly anticipating.
Novak Djokovic Breaks Record He Shared with Rafael Nadal at French Open
Novak Djokovic achieved a new milestone in his career by surpassing his rival Rafael Nadal and securing a record 17th appearance in the French Open quarterfinals. His victory over Juan Pablo Varillas on Sunday, with a score of 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, was a relatively straightforward affair, as Djokovic remained in control throughout the match.
While Djokovic is steadily closing in on Nadal in terms of Grand Slam singles championships, both players currently share the record with 22 titles. Djokovic won two of his Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros in 2016 and 2021, and he has the chance to become the first male player to have at least three championships at each major tournament.
Nadal, a 14-time French Open champion, is absent from this year’s tournament due to a hip injury and recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on Friday night.
Facing the 94th-ranked Varillas, who had never previously won a match in a Grand Slam event but managed to secure three consecutive victories in five sets during this tournament, Djokovic showcased his dominant form on Court Philippe Chatrier. The match took place on a warm and sunny day, and Djokovic’s performance was expectedly impressive.
At the age of 36, the Serbian player displayed an impressive performance, finishing the match with more than twice as many winners as his opponent, leading 35-15, and committing fewer unforced errors. He successfully capitalized on 15 out of 17 net approaches and achieved an 80% first-serve rate. Additionally, Djokovic capitalized on 6 out of 12 break points and experienced a solitary break of his own serve.
Overall, it was a drama-free display from Djokovic, completing the match in under two hours. Thus far, Djokovic has maintained a flawless record by not losing a single set in any of his four matches. Despite facing some confrontations with spectators during the past week in Paris, Djokovic concluded the match by gesturing as if to embrace everyone while receiving chants of his two-syllable nickname, “No-le!”
This quarterfinal appearance marks Djokovic’s 55th in his career at a major tournament, with Roger Federer being the only player to have reached more with 58. Furthermore, Djokovic’s current quarterfinal appearance at Roland Garros marks his impressive streak of 14 consecutive quarterfinals at the tournament. As the tournament’s third seed, Djokovic will go head-to-head with the 11th seed, Karen Khachanov, on Tuesday.
Khachanov, with a head-to-head record of 1-8 against Djokovic, advanced to this stage of a Grand Slam for the fifth time by securing a victory over Lorenzo Sonego with a scoreline of 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7), 6-1.
I’m Heorhii Rysak, a go-to sports enthusiast and blogger. My fascination with sports began in my childhood with karate, setting the foundation for my love of physical fitness. Over the years, I’ve delved into various disciplines, including martial arts and CrossFit, and developed a passion for tennis. I bring a wealth of practical experience to my blog, where I share equipment reviews, workout plans, and fitness advice. My goal is simple: to inspire and assist you in your journey toward better health and performance.