Top seed and World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz will take on third seed Novak Djokovic in the French Open semifinals on Friday (June 9).
Alcaraz is in great form at the moment, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in the previous round. However, winning three sets against Djokovic, who is eyeing a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title, is still one of the toughest jobs in tennis.
The clash between Alcaraz and Djokovic might be the de-facto final. They have met each other only once so far, with Alcaraz winning their semi-final encounter in Madrid last year. That was a thrilling match that saw the Spaniard scrape through in three sets.
On that note, let us take a look at two factors that might determine the fate of their Roland Garros semi-final match today.
#1. Carlos Alcaraz's superior groundstrokes giving him the edge from the baseline
Alcaraz has more powerful groundstrokes and might go on to dominate most of the rallies from the baseline. The Spaniard hit 15% of his forehand groundstrokes as winners against Tsitsipas, while Djokovic managed 13% in the same aspect against Karen Khachanov in his quarter-final match.
Alcaraz's tendency to pull the trigger frequently by playing his down-the-line backhand after having engaged Djokovic in crosscourt backhand exchanges might hold the key in the semi-final.
However, if Djokovic is able to play his down-the-line forehand from the deuce court well, that should test Alcaraz's backhand.
Still, both Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Karen Khachanov troubled the Serb from the baseline for a considerable portion of their matches with their powerful groundstrokes. Alcaraz should take heart from that.
Moreover, the Spaniard also hit his running forehand passes wonderfully against Tsitsipas. That will help him a lot should Djokovic decide to come to the net frequently. Incidentally, the Serb got passed on six occasions against Khachanov.
Djokovic has looked vulnerable at times and has committed unforced errors quite regularly from the baseline in some of his matches.
#2. Novak Djokovic dragging Alcaraz to the net frequently
Djokovic might avoid engaging in lengthy baseline exchanges with Alcaraz and instead look to drag the Spaniard to the net by playing drop shots.
Tsitsipas employed the same tactic against Alcaraz and thus gave him a better fight in the third set after having been blown away from the baseline in the first two.
The Greek played seven drop shots in the match and also played six lobs - most of them after dragging the Spaniard to the net.
Djokovic might take a leaf out of Tsitsipas' book and force Alcaraz to come to the net frequently to disrupt his rhythm from the baseline. At this moment, that seems to be his only chance of stopping the Spaniard.