Roland Garros – semifinal –
Rafael Nadal is not there but, in exchange, for that reason 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 reality, much more than a match, than a semifinal, the one that this afternoon at the center (2:45 p.m., Eurosport) brings together the two heavyweights of the present: Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, the immense story of the Serbian against to the incandescent rise of the Spaniard, who aspires to reach his first final in Paris, which would be his second on a big stage; Nole already counts six, who also has plenty of reasons to surrender to today’s cause. If he wins, he will maintain his status and, otherwise, the entry into the new era that the Murcian has been accelerating will materialize. That is, basically, what is put on the table is everything. No more no less.
“It’s incredible to play a semifinal against Novak, who I’ve seen millions of times. I remember many games that he and Rafa have played, and now seeing myself here, playing against someone like that, is a dream. When he saw those games he thought: ‘Someday I’ll be there.’ And that day has come”, says Alcaraz, the great boy who has a little bit of everything, of everyone: he floats like Federer, fights like Nadal and dictates like the Balkan himself, whom he defeated last year in the only precedent between the two. , in the arena of Madrid, and that he fears that the heavy ball of the Spaniard, the infernal rhythm that he imposes in each rally, could tilt him and definitely mark the turning point. Djokovic, always resisting, eternally fighting, finds himself back in the trenches, cornered, with one last grenade in hand to try to escape the irremediable: time. Save the soldier Nole, the staunchest of him are entrusted.
Between one and the other, 16 years apart. Alcaraz was born in 2003, when a certain Roger Federer dominated and a certain Juan Carlos Ferrero, his coach, raised the Musketeers Cup; before, 1987, glory for Ivan Lendl, Djokovic came into this world, who approached the tournament as a lost soul and little by little has been taking off his mask. It is not the best moment for him, he is not completely fine. He has only given up one set, like the one from El Palmar.
“He always has extra gears. I don’t think I won’t keep up; I will be the one who has to put up with his. He has played millions of matches, finals, semifinals, and the whole world has seen Djokovic invincible. He is super complete, he does everything very, very well, and that is what fascinates me. He is playing well, at a standard level, and in his case that means he is very high. We cannot say that he is going to loosen up, he is going to be very even. We are going to try to dominate and show our game”, maintains the twenty-something, while the statistics say that both land in relatively similar terms, although the interpretation leads us to think that the duel will be decided fundamentally in a double territory: heads and that right arm so powerful, incomparable right now. Nobody breaks the ball like Alcaraz.
Double key: head and ‘drive’
“He puts a lot of intensity into it”, highlights the one from Belgrade. “He reminds me of a left-handed man 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 adversary on the route to the penultimate round. “Everything worries me about him, he is one of the best in history. He has played 45 major semifinals, and this is my second. He is a rock, he will be very demanding, ”says the boy, whose options essentially pass because he imposes the rhythm of the drive and that irrepressible power, so overwhelming; that from his part; on the other, not to fall into the mental guerrilla warfare that the 22-big champion will try to raise, with so many laurels and the most precious hair on record. He knows them all, he has plenty of resources and nothing that detects a disconnection, one of those in which Alcaraz still rests on his laurels, will take its toll.
“By game and results, Carlos is the favourite,” Djokovic wielded two weeks ago. “For me the favorite will always be Novak, and I’m not throwing balls away. He has won two titles here and if they haven’t been more, it’s because he was playing against whoever he was playing, the best in history on clay [Nadal]. While he is here, he will be the favorite in each tournament ”, counterattacks Alcaraz, the guy with the deck –112 forehand winners, leader–, also the fanciful one –37 dropshots he has shot, 26 of them correctly–; more reliable even these days than Nole himself, the great prototype of security –133 errors on one side, for the 154 on the other–.
Nole and avoid the inevitable
In any case, number one – I would retain it mathematically if it expires today; The Serb would get it back if he wins the tournament – he is fully aware that he is facing the moment he has always sought. In his day, Jimmy Connors had no choice but to end up making way for the whipping of him, Lendl and McEnroe; These were later overwhelmed by the batch of Beckers, Wilander, Edberg and company; the duopoly of Agassi and Sampras later, until the original Federer turned into a tyrant; Nadal suffered this, 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 against Alcaraz, his game would experience a historic turn. “I would play against Novak tomorrow,” stated the king of the circuit after overwhelming the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Hunger, hunger and more hunger, without dissembling. The weather will respect –clouds and muggy, 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, extremely attractive tennis player. It depends only on Djokovic that what has to happen happens sooner or later.
PARIS, THE PARADISE OF SPANIARDS
AC | Paris
There is no more prolific setting than the Bois de Boulogne for Spanish tennis, no matter how much this year the representation has dwindled and that the screening of the first rounds quickly left Alcaraz alone. She endured the pull Sara Sorribes, who progressed to the quarterfinals. Now, once again, national tennis has the opportunity to add another name to a more than important list.
To date, there are 14 players who have managed to access the Roland Garros final, where the shadow of Christmas is so imposing. The Mallorcan landed 14 times (14 victories) in the final match and his stars are 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.
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