Novak Djokovic beats Carlos Alcaraz, reaches French Open final

It was Carlos Alcaraz who had youth on his side, but it was Novak Djokovic who used every bit of his superior experience and fitness to beat his cramping 20-year-old opponent Friday

and reach the final of the French Open, where he will play for a record 23rd Grand Slam championship.

Djokovic, the No. 3 seed, was able to cruise to a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory against the top-seeded Alcaraz to reach his 34th major final, where he will face No. 4 Casper Ruud.

It was Alcaraz, not Djokovic, who complained to his coach in the early going on an 85-degree afternoon in Court Philippe Chatrier that the points weren't long enough to wear down his opponent.

It was Alcaraz who succumbed to the heat and the intensity and, by his own admission, the nerves of the occasion.

And it was the 20-year-old Alcaraz, not the 36-year-old Djokovic, whose body broke down in a matchup featuring the widest age gap in a men's Grand Slam semifinal since 1991.

"I think we were both at the physical limit, to be honest, toward the end of the second set," said Djokovic,

who had his right forearm massaged by a trainer during that set. "I wasn't feeling fresh at all. We went toe-to-toe."

Early in the third set, after nearly 2½ hours of exertion and tension in 85-degree heat, 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. "I've never felt the tension that I did in that match," said Alcaraz, who said he thought the jitters he sensed because of the occasion, 

and the daunting foe across the net, helped cause cramps in "every part of my body." "He has been in that situation multiple times," Alcaraz said. "More than me."

On Sunday, Djokovic will attempt to win a 23rd Slam title, which would break a tie with rival Rafael Nadal for the men's record.

Across the net will be Ruud, who easily defeated No. 22 Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in Friday's other semifinal.

Nadal was absent from the French Open this year because of a hip injury; he had arthroscopic surgery last week.

That left most people focusing on two men: Djokovic, who has won 10 of the past 19 majors, and Alcaraz, who won the US Open in September.

Djokovic is one of the dominant figures in the sport's history; Alcaraz is considered its future.


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