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Published Time: 07.06.2024 - 14:13:06 Modified Time: 07.06.2024 - 14:13:06

They are seen as the future of men’s tennis. The present isn’t too shabby, either. Even though this was not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing of their nine head-to-head meetings — Alcaraz now leads 5-4 — and they combined for 102 unforced errors, there were moments of brilliance that generated dueling clap-accompanied chants of each man’s first name from the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd. Alcaraz, Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner, Sinner


Djokovic was the defending champion in Paris, but withdrew before the quarterfinals after tearing the meniscus in his right knee and had surgery this week. Because he failed to get back to the final, he will drop from atop the ATP rankings, allowing Sinner to rise a spot from No. 2, despite his defeat on Friday.

Sinner entered the semifinals with a 13-0 record in Grand Slam play in 2024 after winning the Australian Open in January. But the 22-year-old Italian also showed up in Paris with a lingering hip injury that forced him to sit out the clay-court tournament in Rome last month.

No. 4 Zverev of Germany and No. 7 Ruud of Norway were scheduled to meet in the second semifinal Friday. Zverev’s domestic abuse case in Berlin ended earlier in the day, when he reached an out-of-court settlement with his accuser, a former girlfriend.

Alcaraz vs. Sinner began in the afternoon under a blue sky, with nary a cloud in sight and the court swathed in sunlight.

They are seen as the future of men’s tennis. The present isn’t too shabby, either. Even though this was not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing of their nine head-to-head meetings — Alcaraz now leads 5-4 — and they combined for 102 unforced errors, there were moments of brilliance that generated dueling clap-accompanied chants of each man’s first name from the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd.

Both men were troubled physically in the third set, but it was Sinner who took it. Alcaraz flexed his right hand as it began to cramp; Sinner got his right forearm and left leg massaged. It brought to mind last year’s French Open semifinals, when Alcaraz got off to a terrific start against Djokovic but then was hit in the third set by full-body cramps that rendered the remainder of the match anticlimactic.

“I learned from last year’s match against Djokovic, when I was in the same position as today,” Alcaraz said. “I know that, in this moment, you have to be calm, you have to keep going, because the cramp is going to go away. You have to stay there, fighting.”

Indeed, he never wavered, often using drop shots — sometimes to win points outright, sometimes to set up curling lobs, sometimes to pave the way for slick passing shots or his booming forehand.

In the fifth set, with shadows covering more than half the court, Alcaraz moved out front by sliding until he could reach across his body to snap a backhand passing winner for a break point. A forehand winner — one of his 30 in the match — made it 2-0 at the 3 1/2-hour mark, earning a yell of “Vamos!” from his coach, 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Soon, it was 3-0, and Alcaraz was on his way.

Both players walloped the ball with such force that the ball-off-strings thuds elicited gasps from spectators in the middle of points.

Sinner, his rust-colored shirt a few shades darker than the clay, came out ready at the start of the match, barely ever missing, gliding more than grinding along the baseline, stretching his long limbs to get to nearly everything Alcaraz offered. Alcaraz, his right arm covered by a white sleeve, would deliver a powerful shot to a corner, punctuated with a grunt, and Sinner would somehow get to it, flip it back and draw a mistake.

Sinner led 4-0 and it took Alcaraz 20 minutes of striving to simply place a “1” beside his name on the scoreboard.

The key statistic in that set: On points that lasted four strokes or fewer, each player took 13. But of those that lasted any longer, Sinner held a 19-8 advantage. Alcaraz would start trying to shorten the points as the match wore on.

The second set began inauspiciously for Alcaraz, who fell behind 2-0. But he did not go quietly. He turned things around right when he needed to, using a five-game run to take control of that set.

And then, after Sinner led two sets to one, Alcaraz pushed the proceedings to a fifth, closing the fourth with a cross-court backhand winner, then raising his right fist and shaking it.

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