Djokovic. Alcaraz. The Grand Slam, best-of five-sets edition. Fans even remotely tuned into tennis have wanted to see this, and the giants of the game have delivered for the 2023 Roland Garros semifinals.
Novak Djokovic, arguably the best man to ever pick up a racquet, stands tied for the most Grand Slams at 22. Alcaraz is the number one player in the world and the top seed at Roland Garros 2023. At 36 years old, Djokovic has wisdom. At just 20, Alcaraz has youth. Something’s got to give.
In this tournament, Djokovic has turned in a pristine 5-0 record in tiebreaks and stunningly has yet to commit an unforced error during those deciders. Alcaraz has only had to play one tiebreaker. Otherwise he hasn’t been much bothered.
Djokovic Alcaraz H2H
These two superstars have only met one previous time– in 2022 at the Madrid Open. Alcaraz won a brilliantly-contested match in a 3rd set tiebreaker. The score alone tells the story. Djokovic won the first set in a breaker, then Carlitos won the final two 7-5, and 7-6. It happens so rarely that Djokovic loses a tiebreaker, and the Serbian won’t have forgotten that loss. He will be motivated to get a win on his side of the ledger.
It’s hard to look too closely at that match because conditions are different in the high altitude of Madrid. That said, the stats from that contest have an eerie sameness. Alcaraz had a slightly better returning day– quite the accomplishment against possibly the greatest returner in history. In addition, the other differentiating stat was that Alcaraz employed the drop shot 19 times, while Novak only used it 8.
Djokovic Alcaraz Odds
Oddsmakers opened this one by anointing Alcaraz the solid favorite. That’s bold. If I were an oddsmaker, this would be a pick ‘em. This matchup of tennis greatness is so close, that anyone predicting the outcome cannot possibly do so with certainty.
Many fans will have wanted this Djokovic Alcaraz match to have been the final of 2023 Roland Garros, but beggars can’t be choosers. It’s a semifinal, and fans should be grateful for this opportunity.
Djokovic Alcaraz Strategy Notes
A hallmark of Djokovic’s match preparation is scouting. Novak will have his analytics team look very closely at the match Alcaraz lost in Rome to qualifier Fabian Marozsan last month. In that stunning upset, Carlitos played second serve points in abysmal fashion. The first serve points were about even. However, when he was serving and when he was returning, the Spaniard failed to capitalize on second serve points.
Marozsan attacked the Alcaraz second serve early, punishing and blistering returns. He also dominated the 0 to 4 short rallies– a category which usually reveals the winner of the match.
Djokovic, who has experimented with some loopy moonballs in this breezy Roland Garros, might decide to go into attack mode early, particularly on the Spaniard’s second serve. It won’t be easy– the Alcaraz kick is heavy and nasty. However, this isn’t Novak’s first rodeo handling that kind of shot. Rest assured, he will know the Spaniard’s serving tendencies in both courts and in all score scenarios going into this semifinal.
As for how Alcaraz might handle Djokovic: This is tough. There have been stretches in his career during which no mortal has been able to crack the code. However, this is Djokovic’s least favorite surface. Therefore, the tact is to play exquisite defense. Look to frustrate his patience. Alcaraz cannot let Djokovic bait him into going for too much offense too soon, particularly from the baseline.
Opponents like Karen Khachanov, who Djokovic handled in the quarterfinals, are apt to start spraying the ball. If Alcaraz can show Novak that his young legs are in for the long haul, that might be a slight advantage.
The sporting world has earned a beautiful treat. It’s time to witness an epic.