The crowd came to Court Philippe-Chatrier on Tuesday to see No. 1 seed Carlos Alcaraz and No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas face off in an epic quarterfinal battle. Instead, they saw Alcaraz spend two sets systematically dismantling Tsitsipas like he was a lost tourist who accidentally ended up playing in the French Open quarterfinals. Tsitsipas remembered how to fight back in the third set, but Alcaraz still prevailed, winning 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(5) in just two hours and 11 minutes.
Tsitsipas came into the quarterfinals with an 0-4 record against Alcaraz, and you could tell he was very aware of it as the match began. He smashed three aces in the first game and was returning with astonishing vigor, which is the only way anyone can seriously compete with Alcaraz.
Tsitsipas won the first game, but his plan (hitting the ball really hard) began to unravel quickly as Alcaraz hit his stride. It didn't matter where Tsitsipas sent the ball, because Alcaraz would get to it and send it back before Tsitsipas even realized what was happening. Alcaraz returned shots that even Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal would have trouble with. With two massive strides he easily traversed the court and rescued ball after ball.
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) June 6, 2023
There was simply nothing Tsitsipas could do to counter Alcaraz's all-out assault. The crowd, which has been very, very friendly to Alcaraz, began cheering on Tsitsipas to buck him up and encourage him to make the match competitive (as if he wasn't already trying his hardest). One fan watching came up with five different ways Tsitsipas could turn things around, and four of them required a miracle or an act of God.
Here are some ways Tsitsipas can turn this around:
- Alcaraz injury
- Alcaraz sniped from the stands
- Alcaraz hit by meteorite
- Alcaraz struck by lightning bolt
- Tsitsipas bitten by a radioactive insect and swiftly developing superpowers
— Swish🔸 (@Zwxsh) June 6, 2023
It turns out Tsitsipas didn't need any of that to turn things around. All he needed to do was actually fight back and remember he's the No. 5 tennis player in the world. Staring down Alcaraz's match point at 5-2, Tsitsipas worked his way back into that game and won. Then he broke Alcaraz for the first time all match to make it 5-3. The crowd went wild, but they somehow let out an even bigger roar when Tsitsipas tied it at 5-5.
What everyone wanted was a tiebreak, and that's just what Tsitsipas and Alcaraz gave us. If Tsitsipas won, he would have forced a fourth set and given himself a real shot at making a comeback. He managed to keep it close, but after Alcaraz won the first game, Tsitsipas never caught up. On the sixth match point of the day, Alcaraz sealed the tiebreak at 7-5 and finally won the match.
Watching Alcaraz steamroll Tsitsipas into the clay for two sets was entertaining, but not quite as fun as watching two players battle it out. Tsitsipas was essentially absent for the first two sets, shrinking the moment he encountered any adversity — almost like he expected to lose. That is not the Tsitsipas we're used to seeing. He nearly beat Novak Djokovic in the French Open final two years ago, taking the court just minutes after learning his grandmother had died and forcing Djokovic to make a two-set comeback.
Tsitsipas didn't win on Tuesday, but he saved the match from being a dud. More than that, he saved himself from going down without a fight. Alcaraz is good, but he's human. He can be beaten, which is something Tsitsipas seemed to forget. But maybe that's what happens when you have to face a player like Alcaraz, who at just 20 years old is already making seasoned professionals wish they had to face literally anyone else.
Novak Djokovic into semifinals
Novak Djokovic, the No. 3 seed, rallied from one set down beat No. 11 Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6(0), 6-2, 6-4 on Day 10 of the French Open. That was Djokovic's 45th career Grand Slam semifinal, just one fewer than Roger Federer's current record of 46.
It was apparent immediately that Khachanov didn't just come to play, he came to win. His serve wasn't at its best, but his returns were blistering, giving Djokovic very little time to react. Khachanov noticed that Djokovic was off to a slow start, and spent the entire first set sending a barrage of 80 mph tennis balls his way.
Down 5-3 with the opening set on the line, Djokovic made a stand, fending off multiple set points to get within one game of tying it up, but that's as far as he got. Constantly off balance and struggling to find his form, Djokovic couldn't get past Khachanov and started the second set down 1-0.
But Khachanov's intensity backed off in the second set. He was blasting fewer winners and making more unforced errors. Djokovic still wasn't in top form, but was getting there. He found ways to capitalize on the change in Khachanov's game, dueling to a 6-6 tie. It wasn't clear who would prevail, especially since Djokovic had generated zero break points through two sets. But then he completely dominated the tiebreak, scoring seven points and winning the set before Khachanov had scored even one tiebreak point.
The announcers expected Djokovic to completely take over after winning the second set tiebreak, and he did. The first game of the third set took nine and a half minutes and contained five deuces, but after he won that, he was off to the races. He took the set 6-2 in just 42 minutes.
Khachanov was still struggling with his serve in the fourth set, but had to make something happen or he was going to lose quickly. Khachanov started giving his returns more zip again after Djokovic won the first two games, winning the third game and putting up a good fight in the fourth. That good fight included this mind-blowing point, which Khachanov won though he lost the game.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 6, 2023
Despite the lengthening odds, Khachanov kept fighting. And Djokovic's choice to play aggressive started to backfire. He made several unforced errors, which only resulted in him getting angry and making more mistakes to blow the game and let Khachanov tie it at 4-4.
But that was Djokovic's final mistake. It took him just three minutes and 32 seconds to win his fifth and sixth game, winning the set and the match.
Djokovic and Alcaraz, who have played each other just once before, will face off in the semifinals on Thursday. Alcaraz won their only meeting.