ROLAND GARROS — Novak Djokovic says Carlos Alcaraz reminds him of Rafael Nadal because of the way he carries himself, ahead of a potential semi-final clash with the world No 1.
Djokovic beat Russia’s Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (7-0), 6-2, 6-4 to book his place in a 45th grand slam semi-final, and his 12th at Roland Garros.
But despite reaching the last four here 11 times before, he has only won the title twice, predominantly due to the dominance Nadal has exerted over the tournament in the 21st century, winning it 14 times in total.
Nadal is absent from this year’s tournament having just had hip surgery but Djokovic, who earlier said he missed having him around but not in the draw, says Alcaraz is not a bad replacement.
“He carries himself very well. No doubt very nice guy on and off the court,” Djokovic said.
“He brings a lot of intensity on the court. Reminds me of someone from his country that plays with a left hand!
“He deserves his success, no doubt. He’s working hard, and he’s a very complete player already.
“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.”
Djokovic dropped his first set of the tournament against Khachanov, having “stepped out on the court today and probably part of me stayed in the locker room”, but recovered to force a second-set tie-break, in which he then won all seven points.
The Serb has won all five tie-breaks in the tournament so far, powered by the remarkable statistic that he has not made a single unforced error in any of them.
“In the tie-break, the format is such that you serve every two points. Every point matters. Really, every point can decide in which direction tie-break is going to go,” Djokovic said.
“So I think it’s a mentality of a lockdown, ‘Okay, I’m present, I’m focused only on the next point and I have to really think clearly about what I want to do’.
“Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. I think I was lucky that throughout my career I have a very good and positive score in the tie-breaks. My opponents know that, and I know that.
“So I think mentally that serves me well. Coming into every next tie-break, I know I maybe have that mental edge, so I try to use it.”
Khachanov, who has beaten Djokovic in the past but not since 2018, faded quickly after losing the second and even having broken back to level the fourth, lost the last eight points of the match to lose an eighth straight meeting with the No 3 seed.
Djokovic said: “I played a perfect tie-break. He didn’t win a single point. Then he felt a bit down, and then I used right away the momentum, broke his serve in the very first game of the third set. It’s normal.
“Things like this happen when you are leading, as he was for most of the first couple of sets, and then, you know, I managed to have a perfect couple of minutes of tennis and turned things around, and then just the energy of the court shifted to my side. I felt the momentum.”