There is no Rafael Nadal but, in return, for that reason of trying to compensate for the gigantic absence, this different Roland Garros proposes the best possible duel at the moment. The imagined, the desired. The match or, in fact, much more than a match, than a semifinal, which quotes this afternoon in the central (14.45, Eurosport) the two heavyweights of the present: Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, the immense story of the Serb in front of the incandescent ascension of the Spaniard, who aspires to access his first final in Paris, which would be the second on a big stage; Nole already counts six, who also has plenty of reasons to give himself to today's cause. If it wins it will maintain the status and, otherwise, the entry into the new era that has been accelerating the Murcia will materialize. That is, basically, what is put on the table is everything. No more, no less.
"It's amazing to play a semi-final against Novak, who I've watched millions of times. I remember many matches that he and Rafa have played, and now to see me here, playing against someone like that, is a dream. When I watched those games I thought, 'Someday I'll be there.' And that day has arrived," says Alcaraz, the great guy who has a little bit of everything, everyone: floats like Federer, wars like Nadal and dictates like Balkan himself, whom he defeated last year in the only precedent between the two, in the arena of Madrid, and who fears that the heavy ball of the Spaniard, The infernal rhythm that imposes in each ruckus, can tilt him and definitively mark the turning point. Djokovic, always resisting, eternally fighting, finds himself again in the trenches, cornered, with one last grenade in his hand to try to escape the irremediable: time. To save Private Nole, his diehards are entrusted.
Without networks and in peace, Carlos Alcaraz's recipe
Between one and the other, 16 years of difference. Alcaraz was born in 2003, when a certain Roger Federer dominated and a certain Juan Carlos Ferrero, his coach, lifted the Musketeers' Cup; before, 1987, glory for Ivan Lendl, Djokovic came to this world, who approached the tournament as a soul in sorrow and little by little he has been taking off his mask. It's not his best, it's not quite fine. He has only given up one set, just like El Palmar.
Djokovic prepares to serve during the match against Khachanov.CLODAGH KILCOYNE (REUTERS)
"He always has extra gears. I don't think I'm not going to keep up; I will be the one who has to put up with his. He has played millions of matches, finals, semi-finals, and everyone has seen Djokovic invincible. It's super complete, it does everything very, very well, and that's what fascinates me. He's playing well, at a standard level, and in his case that means he's very high. We can't say it's going to loosen up, it's going to be very even. We are going to try to dominate and show our game, "says the twenty-year-old, while the statistics say that both land in relatively similar terms, although the interpretation leads to think that the duel will be decided fundamentally in a double territory: heads and that right arm so powerful, incomparable at the moment. Nobody bursts the ball like Alcaraz.
Double key: head and 'drive'
"It puts a lot of intensity," says the Belgrade. "He reminds me of a lefty from his country...", jokes Nole, older (36-20) and with less fuel in the tank; Three and a half hours more on the track than the opponent on the route to the penultimate round. "I care about everything, he is one of the best in history. He has played 45 semi-finals of a major, and this is my second. It's a rock, it will be very demanding," says the boy, whose options happen essentially because he imposes the rhythm of the drive and that irrepressible power, so overwhelming; that on your part; on the other, not to fall into the mental guerrilla war that the champion of 22 majors will try to raise, with so many laurels and the most precious hair in the file. He knows them all, he has plenty of resources and nothing that detects a disconnection, some of those in which Alcaraz is still resting on his laurels, will take due toll.
Alcaraz returns the ball under his legs. JULIEN DE ROSA (AFP)
"By game and results, Carlos is the favorite," Djokovic said two weeks ago. "For me the favourite will always be Novak, and I'm not throwing balls out. He has won two titles here and if they have not been more, it is because he played against who he played, the best in history on clay [Nadal]. As long as he is here, he will be the favorite in each tournament", counterpunches Alcaraz, the guy with the deck -112 winners of the right, leader-, also the fanciful -37 left has thrown, 26 of them with success-; more reliable even these days than Nole himself, the great prototype of security – 133 errors on one side, for 154 on the other.
Nole and avoiding the inevitable
In any case, the number one – I would retain it mathematically if it expires today; The Serb would recover it if he conquers the tournament – he is fully aware that he is facing the moment he always sought. In his day, Jimmy Connors had no choice but to end up making way for his whippings, Lendl and McEnroe; these were then overwhelmed by the batch of Beckers, Wilanders, Edbergs and company; the duopoly of Agassi and Sampras then, until the original Federer became a tyrant; suffered this to Nadal, with that wonder of Wimbledon (2008) that volatilized the established order; and Djokovic entered the cycle shortly after, now exposed to a chapter that seems decisive. There are days that mark a before and after. If he fell to Alcaraz, his sport would experience a historic turn. "I would play tomorrow against Novak," said the king of the circuit after overwhelming the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Hunger, hunger and more hunger, without dissimulation. The weather will respect – clouds and embarrassment, but no water, then the Chatrier will remain uncovered – and tennis prepares for the inevitable, law of life. The law of the strongest redraws the landscape and Alcaraz – aspiring to be the 14th Spanish finalist at Roland Garros, between men and women – continues to rise as a special tennis player, extremely attractive. It depends only on Djokovic that what has to happen, happens sooner or later.
PARIS, THE PARADISE OF THE SPANIARDS
A. C. | Paris
There is no more prolific stage than the Bois de Boulogne for Spanish tennis, even though this year the representation has diminished and that the screening of the first rounds quickly left Alcaraz alone. Sara Sorribes endured the pull, which progressed to the quarters. Now, again, national tennis has the opportunity to add another name to a more than important list.
Until today, there are 14 players who have managed to access the final of Roland Garros, where the shadow of Nadal is so imposing. The Mallorcan landed 14 times (14 wins) in the final match and follow in his wake Nadal (14), Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (6), Sergi Bruguera (3), Juan Carlos Ferrero Ferrero (2), Àlex Corretja (2), Manolo Santana (2), Garbiñe Muguruza, David Ferrer, Albert Costa, Conchita Martínez, Carlos Moyà, Alberto Berasategui, Manolo Orantes and Andrés Gimeno.
Apart from Nadal, champion in 2022, the last finalist was Muguruza (2016). Before, in 2013, Ferrer was the last male representative to achieve it.
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber