PARIS — Novak Djokovic used every bit of his experience, relentlessness and fitness to beat a cramping Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 at the French Open on Friday and move one win away from a record 23rd Grand Slam title.
The No. 1-ranked Alcaraz produced one particularly brilliant shot — one that went viral within minutes and could be talked about for years — en route to claiming the second set of what, at the time, was a closely contested and thrilling showdown.
But in the end, this highly anticipated matchup was as anti-climatic as can be.
That’s because early in the third set, after nearly 2 1/2 hours of exertion and tension in 85-degree heat at Court Philippe Chatrier, Alcaraz’s body began to lock up. First, his hand began to cramp. Then his legs. And so, at 1-all, Alcaraz needed to take a break and get treated by a trainer. Because it was not a changeover, Alcaraz was required to forfeit the following game and fell behind 2-1.
From there, it was pretty much all over. Djokovic, who is 36, was able to cruise to the finish against Alcaraz, who is 20, making for the widest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam semifinal since 1991.