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Alcaraz and Djokovic played their “best match of the tournament” at the same time, the clash of the titans draws closer

Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz are hurtling towards each other in the top half of the Roland-Garros 2023 draw, with both winning by the same margin today

Carlos Alcaraz, Roland-Garros 2023 Carlos Alcaraz, Roland-Garros 2023 – © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Heading into Roland-Garros 2023, one match was on every tennis fan’s mind: Alcaraz vs Djokovic.

Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic stood head and shoulders above the rest of the field as champion candidates at the start of this tournament. Alcaraz because he is world No 1, top seed at Roland-Garros, and has been virtually unbeatable in 2023; Djokovic, because he’s won a record 22 Grand Slams, including the first one of this year and twice in Paris.

Now, eight days into Roland-Garros 2023, both men have put in their best performances of the tournament to draw within one match of each other. Just Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov have the unenviable task of standing between tennis fans, and the match everyone has been waiting for in 2023.

Ahead of this potentially mouth-watering semi-final, we look at how the top two favourites in Roland-Garros 2023 are tracking, and what they’ve had to say about this match up so far.

Djokovic: Concerns over fitness and injury are a thing of the past

While there’s no denying Djokovic’s favourite status heading into Roland-Garros, there were also plenty of questions over the Serbian’s form and fitness ahead of the Paris clay.

Djokovic had been deprived of playing the American hard-court swing, meaning a large gap in the calendar between his Australian Open victory and the European clay. Upon hitting the clay, Djokovic was underwhelming to say the least—exiting early in Banja Luka and Monte Carlo and withdrawing from Madrid, all while sporting a disconcerting elbow sleeve. His best result ahead of Roland-Garros was a quarter-final run in Rome.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic wipes sweat from his brow (Chryslene Caillaud/Panoramic)

However, the past week has done much to allay concerns over the 22-time Grand Slam champion’s fitness and form. Djokovic is yet to drop a set across four matches, dispatching Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (1), Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (2), 6-0, 6-3, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-2 and Juan Pablo Varillas 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

In encouraging signs, Djokovic was able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Fucsovics and Davidovich Fokina in gruelling baseline rallies, proving his endurance is where it needs to be for tougher matches to come. He also exhibited some clutch performance under pressure winning four from four tiebreakers, and was utterly dominant dismissing Varillas for the loss of just seven games.

Alcaraz: No 1 seed handling weight of expectation expertly so far

For Carlos Alcaraz, the Spaniard was viewed as the heavy favourite heading into Roland-Garros.

The world No 1 had lost only three times in 2023, to Cam Norrie, Jannik Sinner and Fabian Marozsan, compiling a record of 30-3. With four titles under his belt at Buenos Aires, Indian Wells, Barcelona and Madrid, Alcaraz was undeniably the man to beat at Roland-Garros 2023.

Carlos Alcaraz, Roland-Garros, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz competes at Roland-Garros 2023

And yet, with the 20-year-old entering a Grand Slam as the No 1 seed for the first time in his career, questions remained over how Alcaraz would respond to the pressure. To date, the answer is incredibly well. Alcaraz has dropped just the one set at Roland-Garros 2023, defeating Flavio Cobolli 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, Taro Daniel 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, Denis Shapovalov 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 and Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

While some of his earlier round matches were a little scratchy, Alcaraz hit his stride in a dominant performance against Musetti. After the No 17 seed broke his serve to open the match, Alcaraz never looked back, tearing through the Italian for the loss of just seven games also. With 42 winners to 23 unforced errors, this was peak Alcaraz.

Twin wins sees Alcaraz vs Djokovic semi-final one step closer

With both Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic describing their recent wins as their best of the tournament, and both winning by the exact same margin in their round of 16 matches, the two feel almost destined to play each other in a semi-final.

If they do, it would be their first meeting of 2023. This is only the second time both have played in the same event in 2023, courtesy of Alcaraz’s injury earlier this year, and Djokovic’s travel restrictions. The last time they were in the same draw, each were subject to upset losses, depriving fans of the opportunity to see Alcaraz vs Djokovic in 2023.

For now, however, Alcaraz and Djokovic have a task at hand. Two players, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov, stand between them, neither of which will be easy beats on the Paris clay.

“I have to be really focused. He’s a really tough opponent. But of course his game is a good game from my side,” said Alcaraz of his quarter-final against Tsitsipas.

Djokovic is equally focused, declaring, “My attention is already in the next match. I mean, obviously quarterfinals, Khachanov, I know what my goal is here. I’m trying to stay mentally the course and of course not look too far.”

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