The match that everyone anticipated, the match that everyone waited for, the semifinal dressed as an imaginary final of the 2023 Roland Garros, and without a doubt, the two currently most-feared players on the ATP Tour.
Djokovic and Alcaraz met only once in the past, and it was a match to remember when then teenager bested the experienced Serb in front of the Madrid crowd. For a very long time, they haven't met even in the same draw, but finally, they stepped onto the Court Philippe-Chatrier one after another for one of the most anticipated semifinal matches in the history of tennis.
Both had a unique journey into the semifinals with some ups and downs. While the 22-time Grand Slam champion lost only one set at the Roland Garros this year, he spent 14 hours and 21 minutes on his way to the last four.
On the other hand, the 20-year-old lost a set on multiple occasions, but thanks to his fast-paced game and winning sets that he won in a dominant fashion, he needed only 10 hours and 52 minutes to meet the Serbian legend.
While it was already the 12th Roland Garros semifinal for Djokovic, no one ever lost more times in this stage on the Parisian clay, as he couldn't make it to the final on 5 occasions. For Alcaraz, it was his first semifinal in the French capital, but the only time he reached the semifinal stages of a Grand Slam before, he went all the way, triumphing at the 2022 US Open.
Before the match, the Serb was urged to play like John McEnroe, and bits of the famous serve and volley appeared already in the first games of the match, but both players were really cautious early on, as there was also the World No. 1 spot at stake apart from everything else.
But already after the fourth game of the first set, the match was on. Djokovic created the first break point chance, and he used it after one of the highlight rallies of the match, leading 3-1 early on in the opener.
The game was on once again in the seventh game of the first set, which was also the longest of the set. The Spaniard had three break points, but that wasn't enough to steal his opponent's serve as Alcaraz showed also some signs of frustration.
Despite returning for his next service game after the changeover with a smile on his face, the World No. 1, who reminds Toni Nadal of Roger Federer's superiority, wasn't able to turn the first set around as Djokovic proved to be better in the decisive moments, saving four break points in total and winning the first set 6-3.
The conditions in Paris were quite challenging with a very warm weather, but also some wind interrupting the play at times. Both players were at their best when serving in the second set, but at 4-3 for Alcaraz, Djokovic knew that the most important moments of the match are probably about to come.
Troubled by his wrist, which has been an issue a lot during this clay-court season, the 22-time Grand Slam champion requested a medical time out. After the time out, the fans on the Court Philippe-Chatrier were treated to two rollercoaster games.
First, Alcaraz broke his opponent's serve right after the medical time out, seemingly, he didn't handle the pressure well when serving for the set, allowing the 36-year-old to break back. Even renowned coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who was watching the match like probably everyone else, took to his official Twitter account, suggesting pressure affected the young Spaniard's game.
"Even the greatest feel the pressure of the history and it can affect the quality of their games. Such a mental match!"
And it seemed that the youngster couldn't handle the pressure well once again in the next game, as he led Djokovic 40-0, having three set points, but once again, the two-time Roland Garros champion saved all of his opponent's chances, winning five consecutive points and making it five games all in the second set.
But Alcaraz got the same opportunity two games late, once again leading 40-0 with three set points to his name. This time, he refused to miss out on the chance to level the score, using his first chance and winning the second set 7-5.
After more than two hours of play, it was game on once again, and Djokovic headed to the locker room for a quick toilet break, and maybe also a change of attire. Once he returned to the court, fans didn't welcome him warmly as he was showered with boos.
But the storyline turned around quickly only after two games and it was Alcaraz who was in the spotlight. After experiencing some serious cramps, the Spaniard made a decision to forfeit the game and receive treatment, as that's not possible during the game for cramps.
But the crowd didn't seem to be happy with that as they started booing once again when Djokovic was about to serve after he 'broke' Alcaraz's serve. All of the excitement seemed to be showered away by how the third set turned out to be after the unlucky moment, as the Serb had no problem winning it 6-1.
This time, it was the 20-year-old who left the court for a toilet break and it seemed to help him as he had break points in the first game of the fourth set. Despite his movement being much better already, the Spaniard wasn't able to break, moreover, he was broken in the next game.
Despite losing already ten consecutive games at 4-0 in the fourth set, and nine since he started struggling with cramps, Alcaraz kept on fighting. But against player as experienced as Djokovic, it didn't mean much and the Serb was able to close out the match.
The Spanish prodigy showed an incredible fighting spirit, but he just refused to retire and after more than three hours, Djokovic won the match 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to reach the 2023 Roland Garros final and come just one step away from the 23rd Grand Slam title.