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Carlos Alcaraz Outlasts Jannik Sinner In Five Sets To Reach Maiden French Open Final

Carlos Alcaraz French Open

On paper, the first men’s semifinal between Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner at the 2024 French Open was expected to be an absolute blockbuster.

In truth, it was a slow burner that struggled to match the intensity and sheer drama of their previous classics. However, it did not disappoint as a spectacle lasting the full four hours.

If we need a reaffirmation that men’s tennis is experiencing a change of guard at the top, this year’s French Open has reminded us that. Carlos Alcaraz proclaimed his young rival Jannik Sinner the “best player in the world,” even though the Italian will ascend to the throne officially on Monday.

Sinner, the man of the hour and the most consistent performer this season, confessed his struggles on a clay court. But he was never allergic to the dirt. His record, on the surface, is not shabby. He was a former quarterfinalist at Roland Garros before today and won his lone ATP title on clay by beating Alcaraz in Umag two years ago.

Alcaraz, for his part, came into the match with a reputation as a clay-court expert. This is his second semifinal at Roland Garros, and he has won two Masters titles on clay in Madrid. When the dust settled on a sunny afternoon in Paris, the 21-year-old was victorious, winning 2-6 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3.

Carlos Alcaraz def. Jannik Sinner 2-6 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3

Errors galore by Alcaraz gifts Sinner first set

This year’s edition of the clay-court Grand Slam has deviated from the script since the opening round. 14-time champion Rafael Nadal suffered a historic first-round defeat at Roland Garros. Defending champion Novak Djokovic withdrew after the fourth round because of a knee injury. When the four semifinalists were confirmed, we were guaranteed a new champion.

A five-minute opening game set the tone for the rest of the set, as two uncharacteristic forehand misses by Alcaraz gave Sinner an early break. The Italian consolidated his early advantage. If that game was Alcaraz’s own undoing, the second was defined by Sinner’s refined ball-striking, holding to love with a sumptuous backhand down-the-line winner.

The Alcaraz forehand is one of the most reliable shots in men’s tennis, but here, on a scorching Parisian afternoon, it buckled as he was put under the pump. Sinner secured the insurance of a double break and held for 4-0. It took the best part of 20 minutes before the real Alcaraz showed up, but it was too little too late because Sinner’s otherworldly defense and his supreme offense won him the first set.

Defiant Alcaraz fights back to level contest

Alcaraz was candid in his pre-match interview, asserting that facing Sinner is the “hardest thing” right now. And how prophetic was that statement? The second seed was the closest thing to perfection on Friday afternoon, retrieving Alcaraz’s groundstrokes almost effortlessly to break the serve again.

Twelve months ago, Alcaraz was in a similar predicament against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, being reduced to a bundle of nerves before cramping in the third set. Trepidation seemed to weigh heavily on him as he missed routine shots time and again. His mind, meanwhile, became foggy and stopped thinking briefly. But he was not disheartened. He would break Sinner twice in quick succession to lead 4-2 and let a roar of delight. Sinner’s winners dried down considerably in the second set as Alcaraz coolly leveled the match at one set apiece.

In the third set, Sinner battled a cramp and held for a 3-2 lead after saving four crucial break points. In the next game, he broke Alcaraz’s serve and won the set after holding in his next two service games.

The fourth set was highly competitive, but Sinner was the first to crack under the scoreboard pressure. Serving to stay in the set at 4-5, the Italian missed an easy smash at 30-15, which kept Alcaraz interested in the game. And the Spaniard would win the next two points to force a fifth set. Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero was motionless all afternoon but was off his feet when his charge planted a winning backhand shot to clinch the set.

With momentum firmly on his side, Alcaraz cranked up the temperature in the deciding set. He broke Sinner and consolidated to take a 3-0 lead with a mix of drop shots and line-painting shots. Alcaraz steadied himself to see off the second seed in the ninth game of the fifth set.

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What next for Alcaraz?

He will contest his first Roland Garros final on Sunday, playing one of Alexander Zverev or two-time runner-up Casper Ruud. Alcaraz can join his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Rafael Nadal on the honor roll. The duo are the last two Spanish male champions in this tournament.

Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports


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