He doesn’t have a flaw in his game. –Commentator’s observation on Carlos Alcaraz
By Roger Childs
Crunch Time at Roland Garros
After two weeks of wonderful tennis on the dusty, orange clay it now comes down to the last two in the men’s and women’s singles. There has been some great entertainment and plenty of excitement for the big crowds.
Two matches stand out: unknown Brazilian, Thiago Seyboth Wild beating the number two seed Daniill Medvedev in the first round, and hometown favourite Gael Montfils in his first round match coming back from 0-4 in the fifth set to win 7-5.
In previous grand slams it has not been unusual for all the top seeds to be eliminated in the early rounds. So this year it has been a surprise to see the top two ranked players — Iga Świątek and Aryna Sabalenka — qualify for the semis.
The two matches featured high quality tennis and the Australian Open winner, Sabalenka was expected to comfortably beat the unseeded Czech Karolina Muchova. The first two sets went to tie breaks and a decider was needed to separate them. The Russian player has very powerful ground strokes but is prone to double fault on serve. She raced to a 5-2 lead in the third set and seemed to have the match sewn up, but Muchova was steadier and more accurate, and she fought back to win 7-5 in the third set to book herself an unexpected place in the final.
Świątek won her first set 6-2 against the 14th seed Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia. The Pole won the French grand slam title last year but needed to win the second set tie break to qualify for the final. Both players served well and the match featured excellent rallies with many excellent placements, retrievals and drop shots. In the end Świątek was too strong.
Świątek must be favoured to win the final, however the consistent Muchova may push her hard.
Men’s semi finals
In the view of many experts the clash between number one seed Carlos Alcaras and third seed Novak Djokovic should have been the final. The first two sets saw some amazing rallies and the retrieval skills of both players were breath-taking. The Serb applauded when after a brilliant set of drop shots and tightly angled volleys Alcaraz had the last word when he chased a ball back and with his back to his opponent produced an incredible passing shot down the backhand side. Djokovic took the first set 6-3, Alcaraz the second 7-5 and the crowd was settling in for a five set thriller.
But then injury struck the Spaniard. Severe cramps restricted his movement and he could not move round the court with the incredible speed which is a hall mark of his game. He bravely played on but couldn’t chase down wide shots. A sympathetic Djokovic inevitably cruised home 6-1, 6-1 in the final two sets.
The other semi-final saw last year’s finalist, Norwegian Casper Ruud, thrash German Sacha Zverev 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. Rudd was superior in all aspects of the game: serving powerfully, displaying fast tightly angled ground strokes, demonstrating consistency in volleying, and regularly catching Zverev out of position.
Rudd will fight hard but Novak Djokovic must be favoured to win the final and take his total of grand slam titles to a record 23 – one ahead of Rafael Nadal.