Alcaraz Keeps Smiling, Keeps Winning At Roland-Garros

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: Roland-Garros)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 5, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

After Carlos Alcaraz continued his mastery of Stefanos Tsitsipas with his sixth career victory over the Greek star, this one a 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory in the quarterfinals of Roland-Garros before an enthusiastic crowd that filled Court Philippe-Chatrier in prime-time Tuesday night, the impressionable 21-year-old Spaniard was all smiles as he received the plaudits of his fans.

As he was interviewed on court afterward by Mats Wilander, a pretty good player back in the day — three times a Roland-Garros champion — and now an astute observer of today’s players, the popular tennis commentator said to Alcaraz: “There’s one thing you do more than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Do you know what that is?”

Alcaraz: “No.”

Wilander: “Smile. …”

It drew a big smile from Alcaraz and great applause from the fans, including American actor Ben Stiller, a big fan of the sport who attended Tuesday evening’s featured match and, according to Wilander, is the only one who makes him smile more than Alcaraz.

Alcaraz was all smiles during his on-court interview and he certainly beamed a big smile upon securing his latest victory over Tsitsipas in two hours and 15 minutes. It meant he’s through to the Paris semifinals for the second straight year. On Friday, he will play soon-to-be World No. 1 Jannik Sinner of Italy, who is 12-0 in majors this season, for a berth in Sunday’s title match. Although each has won major titles elsewhere, winning Roland-Garros would be a first.

World No. 3 Alcaraz set the tempo for the quarterfinal match by breaking the ninth-seeded Tsitsipas in the opening game and, except for the beginning of the third set, he played from the advantage of being ahead. Alcaraz attacked Tsitsipas’ one-fisted backhand and showed great craftiness when it came to winning points at the net. Although Tsitsipas was even more successful at the net than Alcaraz, in the end he couldn’t beat him from the baseline.

Alcaraz hit 21 winners, converted four of six break points and outpointed Tsitsipas 101-81.

Later, in his post-match news conference, Alcaraz expressed how he’s “really, really happy” to be returning to the semifinals in Paris. “It’s always special being able to play a semifinal in a Grand Slam. I’m really, really excited to play Friday against Jannik again. A really difficult challenge. I’m ready for that.

“Hopefully everyone is going to enjoy that match as much as I’m going to.”

One thing’s certain: Alcaraz will be the one on the court smiling, regardless of the outcome.

After withdrawing, Djokovic shares his thoughts with his fans

Soon, after Novak Djokovic pulled out of this year’s Roland-Garros after revealing he had torn a medial meniscus in his right knee, he took to social media to convey his thoughts with his legion of world-wide fans.

“I am really sad to announce that I have to withdraw from #rolandgarros. I played with my heart and gave my all in yesterday’s match and unfortunately, due to a medial meniscus tear in my right knee, my team and I had to make a tough decision after careful consideration and consultation,” Djokovic wrote on Instagram. “I wish the best of luck to the players competing this week and sincerely thank the incredible fans for all of the love and continued support. See you soon. With love and gratitude, Nole”


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A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole)

 A new men’s champion will be crowned

With 14-time Roland-Garros champion Rafael Nadal eliminated last week in the first round and defending champion Novak Djokovic withdrawing Tuesday due to a knee injury, on Sunday a new men’s champion will be crowned from among: No. 2 seed Jannik Sinner, No. 3 seed Carlos Alcaraz, No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev, No. 7 Casper Ruud and No. 11 Alex de Minaur.

The last French Open not won by either Nadal or Djokovic was in 2009. That year, Roger Federer defeated Robin Soderling.

Around Roland-Garros

• Top 50 singles players Tomas Machac of The Czech Repubic and Zhang Zhizhen of China have been one of the pleasant surprises in this year’s Roland-Garros men’s doubles draw. They’ve already won three matches to reach the quarterfinals. On Tuesday, they defeated eighth seeds Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni of Argentina, 6-3, 7-5, in 83 minutes.

The win sets up a showdown with No. 1 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, who are chasing after their first major trophy together after winning nine ATP Tour titles together.

Machac and Zhang began their doubles partnership at the start of the season by reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open, then won an ATP 250 title at Marseille. Recently, they were semifinalists on clay in Barcelona. Their win-loss record is an impressive 15-2.

• As the women’s doubles draw has reached the quarterfinal stage, there are four seeded teams remaining in the chase for the title. The highest-remaining seeds are No. 5 Coco Gauff of the United States and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic and it’s no surprise – especially since Siniakova has won Roland-Garros twice, in 2018 and 2021 with longtime doubles partner Barbora Krejcikova, and Gauff has been an accomplished doubles player, winning eight WTA Tour-level titles.

Gauff and Siniakova are three wins from winning their first major together – and, of course, Gauff plays No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the singles semifinals on Thursday.

Tuesday’s Roland-Garros results

Wednesday’s Roland-Garros order of play

By the numbers

With due credit to Simon Cambers of Tennis Majors

“Quotable …”