“We were both at our physical limits” – Djokovic through as Alcaraz cramp ruins a seismic semi-final

Djokovic pays tribute to the extraordinary physical efforts put in by both players in what was a bruising tussle for the first two sets

Djokovic at Roland-Garros 2023 Djokovic at Roland-Garros 2023 – © Chryslène Caillaud / Panoramic

Novak Djokovic is through to his seventh Roland-Garros final at the expense of Carlos Alcaraz after a match that had been boiling towards becoming an absolute classic for the ages was ruined by what is thought to have been cramping from the young Spaniard.

Despite the Serb’s flashes of brilliance throughout the first two sets, it is a bitterly disappointing end to an encounter that had been billed as the match of the season.

Roland-Garros crowd denied an historic epic

For nearly three glorious hours, it had delivered, before a cruel twist of fate spoiled what could, and should, have been a truly spectacular occasion.

“First and foremost I have to say tough luck for Carlos. Obviously at this level the last thing you want is cramps and physical problems at late stages of the Grand Slam”, Djokovic said during his on-court interview.

For the first two sets of this much-anticipated semi-final, there was little to separate the two players. Alcaraz was tight in the first set as the weight of expectation and the nerves of the occasion appeared to get to him.

However, as he began to relax into the match, the crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier were treated to some truly astonishing tennis, as Alcaraz showed why he is the most exciting young talent we’ve had in the game for some time.

Djokovic too, recognised the level that his opponent was bringing.

“I know that he’s the kind of player that loves to play that kind of style, he’s very dynamic, very fast, a lot of power in his shots, a lot of intensity.

“I had to match that and try to do even better, so it was a very exhausting battle for the two sets. Incredibly proud to reach another final, I’m very very happy.”

This is the seventh time that the 22-time Grand Slam champion has reached the final of Roland-Garros, and he is welk aware that his quest for a 23rd major has not yet been achieved with this win.

“I think it’s all coming together just at the right time. It’s not finished yet. Another, last, the biggest match on Sunday. Hopefully I’ll be able to deliver another great match.

“I was desiring this kind of level for the entire clay season and I said many times throughout the whole clay court season that Roland-Garros is where I want to peak, where I want to play my best tennis.”

Despite a clay-court season that has been far from ideal this year, Djokovic showed again that he is a complete master at peaking for when he needs it most.

He goes into the final on Sunday as the heavy favourite against either Casper Ruud or Alexander Zverev, who would each be seeking their first Grand Slam title should they make it to the final.

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