Ahead of the clay-court French Open in Paris, the second Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year, Carlos Alcaraz regained the No. 1 global ATP world ranking, while Novak Djokovic dropped from No. 1 to No. 3. Unfortunately, that meant the two clear favorites to win the tournament could be placed in the same half of the draw and not meet in the finals. They ultimately were, and will face off in Friday morning's semifinals at the Roland Garros, with Alcaraz priced -200 and Djokovic +160 at Caesars Sportsbook.
This marks the first time Djokovic is an underdog in a Grand Slam tournament against a player other than fellow legends Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer since the Round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2007 vs. Lleyton Hewitt. Djokovic won that match.
Either Alcaraz or Djokovic will be heavily favored in Sunday's finals, regardless of who they face. If the 36-year-old Djokovic wins the French Open for the third time, it would be his 23rd career Grand Slam title, breaking a tie with Nadal for the most ever among men. With Nadal out this season following surgery and expected to retire after next year, the 23 Slam titles could very easily stand. Federer had 20 when he retired.
Djokovic advanced with 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4 victory over 11th-seeded Karen Khachanov in the quarters. It was Djokovic's 45th major win after dropping the opening set. That breaks a tie with Andre Agassi for the most among men in the Open Era (since 1968). The second-set tiebreaker victory improved Djokovic to 307-162, a winning percentage of .655, in set-deciders played at 6-all at every Grand Slam. In 2023, his record is 14-4 in tiebreakers overall, including a 5-0 record in Paris, with zero unforced errors in those five.
The 20-year-old Alcaraz improved to 35-3 in singles matches this year – he missed the Australian Open -- with a 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (5) win over No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters. Alcaraz, the youngest French Open semifinalist since Djokovic in 2007, faced break points in just one game to reach his first semifinal in Paris and second-ever at a Grand Slam. He beat Frances Tiafoe last year in the US Open semis en route to his first Slam title.
Alcaraz and Djokovic have met once, a 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) win for the Spaniard on the clay courts of Madrid in 2022. If Alcaraz wins Friday, he will retain the world No. 1 ranking, but Djokovic would get it back by winning the tournament.
"Since the draw came out, everyone was expecting that match -- the semifinal against Novak. Myself, as well. I really want to play that match," Alcaraz said. "Since last year, I really wanted to play again against Novak."
Alcaraz is -162 to win the tournament and Djokovic is +188. The other semifinal will be set after Wednesday's action, with No. 4 Casper Ruud (+1200 to win tournament) the highest seed remaining on that side of the draw.
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