- Opinion Alcaraz travels at a different speed
- Semifinal Also at stake the attic of the circuit
When in the spring of 2005, Rafael Nadal beat David Ferrer and stood in the semifinals against Roger Federer, Roland Garros prefaced that match with the pomp of a real event. It was. The Spaniard, who turned 19 that day and was going to knock down the then world number 1 to win in the final against Mariano Puerta the first of his 14 titles, came with the vitola of his triumphs in Monte Carlo, Rome and Barcelona. A year earlier, in Miami, he had surprised Federer, and months ago, in that same 2005, in that same tournament, both starred in an unforgettable final, resolved on the side of the Swiss after lifting two adverse sets. Federer was already a two-time Wimbledon champion and had also won the Australian Open.
That was one of the initial chapters of the series that lasted for almost three decades, with its last installment in the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2019, which won Basel. A rivalry with genuine components, which will hardly find parallel.
The weight of the match played this Friday (not before 14.45 h., Discovery Max) Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, also in the semifinals, invites to draw analogies. Again a Spanish tennis player bursts into the circuit with a devastating force to play at Roland Garros the most attractive match of a major in recent years. Even though he is already in his third stage as number 1 in the world, and with the US Open won last year, Alcaraz has the transgressive air that Nadal brought and is willing to attack the established order, to give a monumental blow in the tournament with which he has dreamed all his life.
'Brutal added pressure'
Djokovic's 36 years rule out that we can glimpse a long-term rivalry with Alcaraz. Two-time champion of the tournament and holder of 22 majors, the same as Nadal, the Serbian, however, still competes as the most in this type of tournament. He lost in the penultimate round of the Madrid Masters in 2022, the only match they have played before and, like Federer in that 2005 semifinal with Nadal, he knows that a very serious threat weighs on him.
"Djokovic has a brutal added pressure of wanting to become the best tennis player in history. Alcaraz is going to win many big ones, but right now he only has the pressure he believes, "says Jordi Arrese, Olympic silver in the Barcelona Games. "I see a more balanced match than a lot of people think. Any detail can make victory fall on one side or the other."
The absence of Nadal, who intends to return next year in what would be his last active season, hangs over the tournament since its inception and is accentuated as its resolution approaches. Alcaraz's 20 years and the authority with which he dominates his adversaries, whatever their qualifications, make him the strongest candidate to take over. Overshadowed by this semifinal is the one that Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud will play next.
"Carlos and Novak are very different. Alcaraz puts you in a hellish rhythm from the first point and if you are not prepared to stay close on the scoreboard you have it very difficult. Djokovic plays you more at pace. He adapts to what his rival is doing and looks for the moment to give you the blow. It is the one that has the best reading of the game in the circuit. He interprets your attacks," says Jorge Aguirre, Alejandro Davidovich's coach, in a telephone conversation.
The Malaga, 34th in the world, demanded Djokovic three hours and 35 minutes of a tough match in the third round. The first times he confronted him he imposed the name, but the other day he did not feel overwhelmed. He only lacked a little conviction at certain moments. If I had won any of the first two sets maybe I would have had options," Aguirre continues. The Serb ended up winning 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) and 6-2.
For Arrese, "Djokovic has a type of game that can create problems for Alcaraz if he is not fine with the serve. We assume they're both going to make the game of their lives, but that's not always the case."
Alcaraz trained on Wednesday, breaking his habit in this edition of the tournament of not doing it after match day, and rested yesterday. Djokovic was seen on Court 5 for a light work session. "Carlos is fresh out of the oven. He's playing better than Djokovic and he has plenty of power. Everyone suffers with the speed of the Spaniard, but if the match drags on and they go to five sets, Nole will be dangerous."
"It has been regulated"
After a very disappointing clay tour, the Belgrade player has made substantial progress when it comes to facing Roland Garros, like every Grand Slam, a priority goal. "I have the impression that it has been regulated throughout the tournament waiting for the match against Alcaraz, a duel that will be very interesting and we all want to see," says Aguirre.
Davidovich also stood up to Alcaraz this year. He lost in the quarterfinals to Conde de Godó 7-6 (5) and 6-4. "Alex has some things from Djokovic. It also adapts to the rhythm of the opponent. It hurt Carlos because physically he is also strong. The match was closed. He didn't feel overwhelmed," explains his coach.
Despite the small mistake in the last set, Alcaraz made another very brilliant match against Stefanos Tsitsipas. "The Greek is light years away from these players. To begin with, he has a hole in the backhand that Carlos profited from very well. Djokovic has a magnificent backhand and possesses the best rest in the world. He's as competitive as Nadal. When the key moment comes, they are at their best," concludes Arrese.
- Carlos Alcaraz
- Rafa Nadal
- Novak Djokovic
- Articles Javier Martínez
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