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Carlos Alcaraz hits stunning shot before cramps; Novak Djokovic wins their French Open semifinal

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz reacts after winning the second set against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Friday, June 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

PARIS (AP) — Novak Djokovic used every bit of his experience, relentlessness and fitness to beat a cramping Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 at the French Open on Friday and move one win away from a record 23rd Grand Slam title.

The No. 1-ranked Alcaraz produced one particularly brilliant shot — one that went viral within minutes and could be talked about for years — en route to claiming the second set of what, at the time, was a closely contested and thrilling showdown.

But in the end, this highly anticipated matchup was as anti-climatic as can be.

That's because early in the third set, after nearly 2 1/2 hours of exertion and tension in 85-degree heat at Court Philippe Chatrier, Alcaraz’s body began to lock up. First, his hand began to cramp. Then his legs. And so, at 1-all, Alcaraz needed to take a break and get treated by a trainer. Because it was not a changeover, Alcaraz was required to forfeit the following game and fell behind 2-1.

From there, it was pretty much all over. Djokovic, who is 36, was able to cruise to the finish against Alcaraz, who is 20, making for the widest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam semifinal since 1991.

Score one for the old guys.

It was the 45th Grand Slam semifinal for Djokovic and the second for Alcaraz.

“I feel for him. I feel sorry. ... I hope he can recover very soon,” Djokovic said. “I told him at the net, he knows how young he is. He has plenty of time ahead of him. He's going to win this tournament, I'm sure, many, many times.”

Not this time.

Instead, it is No. 3 Djokovic who will meet No. 4 Casper Ruud of Norway or No. 22 Alexander Zverev of Germany in Sunday’s final.

Ruud — a two-time major runner-up last year, including in Paris — and Zverev — the runner-up at the 2020 U.S. Open — were scheduled to play the second semifinal later Friday. Neither owns a major trophy.

Djokovic is hoping to leave Roland Garros this year with his third French Open title and his 23rd Slam championship overall, which would break a tie with rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in the history of tennis.

Nadal was absent from his favorite tournament this year because of a hip injury.


AP tennis: and

Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press

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