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Dethroned as Prince of Clay by Alcaraz, Tsitsipas has a golden opportunity to reclaim his crown
With an Alcaraz vs Tsitsipas quarter-final set at Roland-Garros 2023, can Stefanos Tsitsipas reclaim the Prince of Clay crown he seemed destined to hold when he made the final here two years ago?
Two years ago, it was supposed to be Stefanos Tsitsipas’ year. The Greek had been in dominant form at Roland-Garros 2021, powering through his first six matches to reach an inaugural Grand Slam final against Novak Djokovic.
Leading the world No 1 by two sets to love, it seemed as though the then 22-year-old was about to make his big breakthrough. After winning three clay court titles and making the Roland-Garros semi-finals in 2020, Tsitsipas was going to do it. He was going to become the first man from his generation to win in Paris, and grab the Prince of Clay title once and for all.
Until he didn’t.
The stagnation of Tsitsipas’ clay court momentum
Djokovic did was Djokovic does, digging deep and winning the 2021 Roland-Garros final in five sets. In doing so, he dealt Tsitsipas’ hopes of clay court glory a vicious blow, from which they’ve yet to fully recover.
Over the past two years, Tsitsipas has failed to kick on and achieve the success on clay that many expected him to. Despite some of the more technical reasons to do with his backhand and recent injuries, one big factor has deprived Tsitsipas from stepping into the Prince of Clay title: Carlos Alcaraz.
In many way, Alcaraz has been the embodiment of what Tsitsipas was expected to be—a young, talented, creative player, dominating opponents on the red clay. While has only one title on clay since losing the 2021 Roland-Garros final, Alcaraz has picked up seven.
Now, with a quarter-final match up set against Alcaraz, can Tsitsipas rewrite the narrative and score a victory over his Spanish rival?
“The clash we’ve all been waiting for” – Tsitsipas ready for Alcaraz challenge
When asked how he’s feeling about his upcoming semi-final against Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas is blunt:
“The clash we’ve all been waiting for,” Tsitsipas declares. “I think I said everything I had to say. I think everyone was expecting it, weren’t they? And it’s here. It’s game on.”
While Tsitsipas may be up for the challenge, he’ll need to do something different than in previous encounters against the 20-year-old. In four attempts, the Greek is yet to beat Alcaraz, losing their most recent match 6-3, 6-4 in Barcelona last month.
Despite the one-sided nature of their rivalry, Tsitsipas is positive about his relationship with Alcaraz heading into Tuesday’s match:
“It pushes us all to be better. Rivalries like this, they are kind of, they are the toughest thing you can get in our sport. Getting to play him as much as possible will eventually give you more chances perhaps to beat him, if that makes sense. You know, I’m looking for those chances myself.”
Alcaraz firing on all cylinders, but cautious heading into quarterfinals
Carlos Alcaraz has been in supreme form in 2023, dropping just three matches for a 30-3 record this year.
With four titles to his name, the No 1 seed has been tearing through his section of the draw at Roland-Garros 2023. He arrives in the quarter-finals with wins over 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). However, the 20-year-old is still cautious about his upcoming clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“We have played great matches. I won every match that we have played. But it doesn’t mean that I’m going to win every match that we are gonna play.
I have to be really focused. He’s a really tough opponent. But of course his game is a good game from my side.”
Crucial for Tsitsipas will be serving well against the Spaniard, something he did in his win over Sebastian Ofner in the round of 16, winning 76% of first serve points.