Roland Garros Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic Collide in a Huge Semifinal - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic Collide in a Huge Semifinal

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Novak Djokovic on Tuesday in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

In arguably the biggest men’s match of the year to date, the World No.1 faces the 22-time Major champion on Friday in Paris.

Carlos Alcaraz has won his last 12 matches at Majors, and is vying for his second Slam final.  Novak Djokovic has won his last 19 matches at Majors, and is vying for his 34th Slam final.  And Djokovic is just two wins away from recapturing the World No.1 ranking, and surpassing Rafael Nadal with his 23rd Major singles title.  History is in the balance in Friday’s first semifinal.

The second semifinal features Casper Ruud, who is looking to return to the championship match at Roland Garros for the second straight year, and his third Major final out of the last five, and Sascha Zverev, who a year ago in this same round was wheeled off the court in a wheelchair. 


Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Novak Djokovic (3) – Not Before 2:45pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz is 35-3 this year, despite missing the Australian Open due to injury.  He has dropped one set to this stage.  This is Carlitos’ best performance at Roland Garros, after losing in the quarterfinals a year ago to Sascha Zverev in an extended fourth-set tiebreak.  A win on Friday would propel him to his sixth final of the year, and ensure he remains the World No.1.

Djokovic is 25-4 this year, despite missing Indian Wells and Miami due to his vaccination status, and missing Madrid due to an elbow injury.  He has also dropped only one set to this stage, to Karen Khachanov in the last round.  Novak is 22-11 in Major semifinals, and 6-5 in French Open semifinals, winning his last two, and five of his last six. 

Their only previous meeting was one of the best matches of 2022.  In the semifinals of Madrid, Alcaraz prevailed 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) after over three-and-a-half hours.  And that was just a day after defeating his idol, Rafael Nadal, for the first time.

Best-of-five almost always favors Djokovic, who is one of the sport’s best endurance players of all-time.  But 36-year-old Novak has not been fully healthy at any point this season.  And 20-year-old Carlitos is one of tennis’ fittest athletes, and has already proven his best-of-five prowess last summer in New York, when he won three consecutive five-setters, including an over five hour one against Jannik Sinner, just to make the final.

Betting against Djokovic, especially with so most history on the line, is a dangerous proposition.  This past January in Melbourne, he decimated the field despite being far from 100% physically.  But on Friday, I give the slight edge to Alcaraz.  He’s been the better and healthier player in 2023, and in this rare instance, best-of-five may not favor Novak.  And based on how long it took them to play three sets in Madrid, this could easily turn into a five or six hour contest.


Casper Ruud (4) vs. Sascha Zverev (22) – Not Before 5:30pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

2023 has been a tale of two seasons for Casper Ruud.  In the first three months, he was just 5-6, after an exhibition tour with Rafael Nadal shortened his off-season.  But Casper is now 16-5 on clay, and into his second French Open semifinal with the loss of three sets thus far.

Zverev was over three hours into his semifinal here a year ago with Nadal, with the second set yet to be completed, when he suffered an awful ankle injury which ended his season.  He is 21-14 on the year, and 13-5 on clay.  This is a third consecutive French Open semifinal for Sascha, though he’s yet to advance farther.  Two years ago, he lost a five-setter to Stefanos Tsitsipas in this round.

Zverev leads their head-to-head 2-1, with all three matches taking place on hard courts at Masters 1000 events.  Sascha claimed both of their 2021 meetings in straight sets, (Cincinnati, Bercy), while Casper took their 2022 meeting in three sets (Miami).

In 2023 on clay, Ruud should be favored to reach his second straight Roland Garros final.  His defense will be key in stifling Zverev’s offense, which while improving as the season progresses, is still not back to its peak level.  And Sascha is just 1-4 in Major semifinals, and has lost five of his last six semifinals overall.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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World No.32 Davidovich Fokina Replaces Long-Time Coach With Verdasco

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Fernando Verdasco was spotted earlier this week briefly watching Ons Jabeur play at the French Open but his focus this year is on another player.

The former top 10 player has landed a new coaching job after being hired by compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Somebody who he once played a Tour-level doubles match alongside back in 2020. Fokina has opted to stop working with Jorge Aguirre, who has been his mentor since he was a child.

The change comes after what has been a mixed start to the season for Fokina who has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of 11 tournaments played before the start of Roland Garros. His sole win over a top 20 player occurred at the start of 2024 when he beat Hubert Hurkacz at the United Cup.  

“I will be very brief. I have left it with Jorge (Aguirre) and I start with Verdasco, with whom I have had a good relationship for years. He has not officially retired, but I knew that he was training other players and it was time,” Fokina told reporters after beating Valentin Vacherot in the first round of the French Open.
“It was time to close a stage and start a new one. With his experience, Verdasco can help me a lot to face the games, to assume that pressure and tension of the competition.”

Verdasco has won seven ATP titles during his career and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open. At this year’s Madrid Open, he briefly helped Jabeur whose main coach Issam Jellali was unable to attend the tournament. 

Fokina will next play Casper Ruud in Roland Garros.

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Roland Garros 2024: Casper Ruud Explains Geneva Decision, Martin Etcheverry Talks Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Two-time finalist Casper Ruud is into the second round with a straight sets win over Felipe Meligeni Alves.

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Casper Ruud has explained the decision behind playing in Geneva last week after he defeated Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-3 6-4 6-3.

The world number seven is into the second round after a straight sets win over the Brazilian qualifier.

Ruud has reached the final the past two occasions here having lost to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in those respective finals.

Now the Norwegian is targeting more success in Paris this year and spoke about his opening round performance after the match, “Yeah, I was honestly very happy. I think it was a good start,” Ruud stated in his press conference.

“I think Felipe is a dangerous player, and obviously I didn’t know him so well. So not easy to know what’s going to come out of his racquet. I think he was firing pretty good serves and forehands.

“Overall, I think it was a pretty high-quality match and happy to be through in straight sets. That’s just what I was kind of hoping and looking for. Yeah, I’m very happy to be through.”

Given Ruud’s history at Roland Garros, there would be no reason to suggest that the Norwegian would need to play his way into form.

However that’s exactly what he did in Geneva the week before Roland Garros as he won the title in Switzerland.

After his opening round match Ruud was asked about why he always plays in Geneva instead of practicing on-site in Paris, “No, I decide based on the fact that I enter the tournament, and with the purpose of going. But of course, if you do super well in Madrid and Rome and you play, let’s say, 10 matches or more within those two weeks or the two tournaments, maybe, depending on how your body feels, it’s kind of easier to skip it,” Ruud explained.

“But that wasn’t the case for me in Madrid and Rome. I played only four matches there. I lost early in Rome. If I didn’t play Geneva I would have had 17 or 18 days since I lost in Rome until starting in Roland Garros, which in my eyes, my feeling, is just a bit too much. For some players, they don’t think it’s too much. They don’t have a problem with it.

“But for me I like going into tournament kind of mode and feeling in the zone when you’re playing an official match. That’s why I like playing. It gives me kind of confidence and match feeling going into a Grand Slam, which is the Grand Slam that I personally feel like I have the most chances to do well in.”

Ruud will aim to continue his good run of form when he takes on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round.

Martin Etcheverry Speaks On Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Finally Tomas Martin Etcheverry defeated Arthur Cazaux in four sets to seal his place in the second round.

The Argentinian is a big Novak Djokovic fan and after the match spoke about his love for Roland Garros and has tipped Djokovic to win this year’s tournament, “I think it’s my favorite tournament since I was a child, and I always want to play here,” Martin Etcheverry explained.

“This is a moment of the year that I want to be here and try to play my best tennis because I want to get a good result here.

“Yeah, is he my idol, and he is the No. 1 of the world. I don’t know, like six years right now. Yeah, I always try to watch him, trying to improve the game. I always trying to saw him. Yeah, I think he’s going to be No. 1 a lot of time. I don’t know if they have a good year this year, but I think it’s Novak Djokovic. Maybe he can win this tournament.”

Martin Etcheverry will play another Frenchman in the form of Arthur Rinderknech in the second round with Ruud being the potential third round opponent.

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Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist Van De Zandschulp Pondering Retirement After French Open Exit

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image via https://x.com/Boticvdz/

Botic van de Zandschulp has revealed he is losing his passion for tennis and is considering retiring from the sport following his exit from the French Open on Monday.

The 29-year-old was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Fabio Fognini, who eased his way to a 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, victory. It is the second Grand Slam in a row where he has fallen at the first hurdle with the 2022 Wimbledon championships being the last major event where he won back-to-back matches.   

“I don’t look forward to competitions at all anymore,” Zandschulp told Dutch media.
“I have been asking myself more and more lately whether I want to continue.
“You have to do work that you enjoy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then. But if there are too many, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue.” 

Zandschulp has been the top-ranked player in his country with his most notable achievement being a run to the quarter-finals of the 2021 US Open. The former world No.22 is a two-time runner-up at the Munich Open but is yet to win an ATP Tour title. He has registered a total of six wins over top 10 players, including Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. 

However, recent difficulties on the Tour have left the Dutchman questioning if he wants to continue playing.  

“I like the training. Those are great days. But when I get up in the morning, I no longer look forward to the matches at all.” He commented.

Zandschulp’s remarks could be a reaction to his frustrating loss to Fognini. However, he confirmed that he has been considering retiring for a long time. 

“It was the worst match I have played in my life,” he said. 
“Of course, it is now fresh after the match. That plays a role in my mind, but the thoughts of quitting have been there for a long time. It is not an easy life as a tennis player. You really live your life, play thirty weeks a year and travel from pillar to post.
“If you don’t play, someone else will pass you by (in the rankings). That’s why I now play extra tournaments instead of charging myself at home.”

Zandschulp is currently ranked 102nd in the world and is scheduled to play in the French Open doubles event on Tuesday.

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