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'My whole body cramped, never felt tension like this,' says Carlos Alcaraz

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Paris — Carlos Alcaraz said “every part of his body cramped” and that facing a “legend” like Novak Djokovic caused the tension which ended his French Open hopes in a dramatic semi-final on Friday.

Djokovic, 36, triumphed 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to become the oldest man in 93 years to reach the championship match at Roland Garros where he will be bidding for a third title and record-setting 23rd men’s Grand Slam crown.

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“The first and second sets were very intense. My arm cramped and then every part of my body cramped,” said 20-year-old world number one Alcaraz.

“It was really tough for me to move at the third set, and in the fourth set let’s say I had a one percent chance.”

He admitted that facing Djokovic for the first time at a Grand Slam, and just the second time in his career, caused a unique tension which contributed to his physical ailment.

“The tension of the first set, the second set, it was really intense. Really good rallies, tough rallies, drop shots, sprints,” he explained.

“Novak is a legend of our sport. If someone says that he goes onto the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies. Of course playing a semi-final of a Grand Slam, you have a lot of nerves, but even more facing Novak. That’s the truth.”

The drama on Friday unfolded just as Djokovic had levelled the third set at 1-1 with the first two sets split but with Alcaraz seemingly in the ascendancy in the sweltering 33-degree Paris heat.

Alcaraz, 16 years Djokovic’s junior, pulled up clutching his right calf.

He conceded his next service game because he sought treatment courtside before a scheduled change of ends and could not receive a medical timeout for cramping.

As boos and jeers rained down, Djokovic, playing in his 45th Grand Slam semi-final, swept the next five games to open a two sets to one lead.

Alcaraz left the court for a five-minute bathroom break but his physical limitations easily opened the door for Djokovic to coast into his 34th Grand Slam final, having wrapped up 10 of the last 11 games of the semi-final.

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“I would have felt sorry with myself if I retired. I’m in a semi-final of a Grand Slam,” said US Open champion Alcaraz.

“Thinking about the fourth set, I thought that probably I have one percent chance to come back.”

Alcaraz had also suffered cramping in his semi-final loss to Jannik Sinner at Miami in March, but still finished the match.

“The next time that I face Novak, I hope to be different, but the nerves will be there,” added Alcaraz.

AFP

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