World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, No. 3 Novak Djokovic to meet in French Open men’s semifinals; American teen Coco Gauff falls to women’s No. 1 Iga Swiatek

Carlos Alcaraz plays a shot against Stefanos Tsitsipas during their quarterfinal match of the French Open in Paris on Tuesday. (AP photo)

PARIS — Two weeks ago, before the start of play at the French Open, the brackets were set for the tournament, and one possible semifinal matchup immediately demanded attention: No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, the Next Big Thing in men’s tennis, against No. 3 Novak Djokovic, the Current Big Thing in men’s tennis.

The heightened anticipation was not merely because it would be fascinating to see the two of them play at Roland Garros. It also would be fascinating to see them play each other, period: They’ve met only once, and it was 13 months ago, with Alcaraz coming out on top.

So get ready: Alcaraz and Djokovic finally will share the stage again on Friday in Court Philippe Chatrier, where they will compete for a spot in the championship match.

“Since the draw came out, everyone was expecting that match — the semifinal against Novak. Myself, as well,” Alcaraz said after completing his half of the bargain by outclassing Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (5) in the quarterfinals Tuesday night. “I really want to play that match.”

A moment later, Alcaraz observed: “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his quarterfinal match at the French Open tennis tournament against Pablo Carreno Busta at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, on Oct. 7, 2020. (AP file photo)

That echoed, word for word, the phrase Djokovic uttered hours earlier as he looked ahead after beating Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday: “It’s definitely the biggest challenge for me, so far in the tournament. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. He’s definitely a guy to beat here. I’m looking forward to that.”

The other men’s pairing in the final four will include No. 22 Alexander Zverev, who advanced to that round in Paris for the third consecutive time by defeating Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. He now takes on No. 4 Casper Ruud, a finalist at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows last season. Ruud took advantage of No. 6 Holger Rune’s terrible start to build a big lead and then held on to win 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 on Wednesday night.

On Wednesday afternoon on the women’s side, with shouts of “Go, Coco!” and “Allez, Coco!” emanating from the Court Philippe Chatrier stands, American Coco Gauff frittered away two break points as No. 1 Iga Swiatek served at 1-all. Then, at deuce, came the most memorable moment — and, while Gauff won the point, it soon would be Swiatek who seized complete control of this rematch of last year’s final.

Swiatek, 22, of Poland is seeking a third title at Roland Garros and fourth Grand Slam trophy overall as she won 6-4, 6-2 to improve to 7-0 against the No. 6 Gauff.

Today, Swiatek will meet No. 14 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, the first woman from Brazil to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Maria Bueno at the 1968 U.S. Open. The other women’s matchup for a berth in Saturday’s title match will be No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January, against unseeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.


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