Novak Djokovic reached his ninth French Open final after world number one Carlos Alcaraz’s challenge was thwarted by severe cramps in a dramatic semi-final.
The 36-year-old Djokovic won 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to go on to the championship match, where he will compete for his third Roland Garros title and a record-breaking 23rd men’s singles Grand Slam victory.
At the beginning of the third set, after Alcaraz had tied the third set at 1-1, he began to have cramping in his right calf. He would forfeit his service game in order to advance to a changeover and receive treatment from an ATP physiotherapist.
Due to his inability to chase after strokes and drive through the ball, the Spaniard, who missed the Australian Open this year due to a leg injury, saw Djokovic retake the lead. After three hours and 23 minutes, the third seed defeated Alcaraz in the fourth set with ease to progress.
“First and foremost I have to say tough luck for Carlos,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview after the win.
“Obviously at this level the last thing you want is cramp and physical problems at the late stages of a Grand Slam. So I feel for him, I feel sorry. I hope he can recover and he can come back very soon.
“I told him at the net. He knows how young he is. He’s got plenty of time ahead of him, so he’s going to win this tournament I’m sure many man times. He’s an unbelievable player, an incredible competitor and a very nice guy, so he deserves all the applause and all the support.”
Djokovic said that he respected the grit of the Spaniard who fought through pain to finish the match although clearly impeded.
“It’s tough. Obviously for him to not know whether he should retire [from] the match or finish the match the way he did,” Djokovic said.
“Congratulations to him for his fighting spirit and hanging in all the way until the last point. Respect for that, great respect.
“I think we were both at the physical limit towards the end of the second set. I wasn’t feeling fresh at all. We went toe to toe.
“I think it was a quite even match, one-set-all, and then this thing happened with his cramp in the third game of the third set and from that moment onwards it was a different match.
“Obviously I just tried to stay focused, to stay present, and I saw that he was struggling, but I obviously didn’t want to think too much about what was going on the opposite side of the net. Again, respect for hm and I hope he comes back very quickly.”
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