The key to Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner’s ‘weird’ French Open semi-final


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Carlos Alcaraz made it to his first ever French Open final with a smile on his face. Even though things didn't go smoothly at the beginning, he was able to defeat his rival Jannik Sinner in five sets after four hours and nine minutes. Sinner will be the new world No 1 on Monday. The match wasn't as great as people were anticipating because they are both exceptional players, but Alcaraz's win showed how much he has grown and learned in terms of mental and physical capabilities.

Alcaraz - Figure 1
Photo The Independent

Alcaraz smiled and said that the key to success in playing tennis on clay at Roland Garros is finding joy in suffering. The matches can be long, lasting up to four hours and five sets, with plenty of long rallies. But it's important to enjoy the suffering. Alcaraz is now the youngest tennis player to reach the grand slam finals on all three surfaces, having already won the US Open and Wimbledon. This isn't his first time in a French Open semifinal, unlike 22-year-old Sinner, who struggled with cramps and tension during his match. Alcaraz is familiar with the challenges of playing on clay and has already faced them before.

The semi-final between Alcaraz and Sinner was expected to be very exciting just like their previous grand slam match at the US Open in 2022. The match lasted for five sets and Alcaraz had to work hard to secure his victory, however, unlike their match two years ago which went until 3am, both players had moments when their performance wasn't consistent. Throughout the four hours of the match, it was more about making errors than scoring points and it lacked the wow factor. "The third set was a little strange," Alcaraz acknowledged.

Alcaraz won once more, despite facing a tough opponent. At only 21 years old, he has played in 12 five-set matches during the grand slams and has won 11 of them. He mentioned how he had taken valuable lessons from his prior experience in the French Open semi-finals. In that match, he lost to Novak Djokovic in four sets, after suffering from painful cramps at the start of the third set. After that defeat, Alcaraz admitted that his nerves had contributed to the outcome. During his match against Sinner, his nerves threatened to affect him again, but he relied on his past experiences to push through.

Alcaraz - Figure 2
Photo The Independent

He stated, "It’s essential to remain composed and carry on as the cramp will eventually diminish. Additionally, keeping the rallies brief can be useful." Meanwhile, it was clear that Sinner was having difficulties, as he extended his right arm and received treatment in between game breaks.

Sinner made a quick comeback in the match when he started to find his forehand and serve during the Australian Open. In the beginning, Alcaraz couldn't match Sinner's precision and accuracy, and struggled to keep up during their back and forth plays. However, Alcaraz eventually found a way to mess up Sinner's game plan and disrupt his momentum. By the fourth set, both players were at the top of their game, and it was clear why Djokovic compared Alcaraz to himself, Nadal and Federer.

Just like how Djokovic gave a great compliment in that Wimbledon final, Alcaraz managed to make a comeback by winning over the crowd, hitting incredible winners from difficult positions, and putting in a lot of effort during his comeback. Alcaraz won five games in a row to take the fourth set and even broke early in the fifth set, which increased the energy on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Despite describing the match as one of the toughest he's ever played, the Spaniard enjoyed the challenge. As the tension in the match increased, Alcaraz elevated his level of play and produced some amazing shots that you'd typically see in highlight reels.

Everyone, including those who are not perfect, can learn something from their mistakes. Sinner, who has become the world No 1 player, gained valuable insights from his setbacks over the years. For instance, experiencing muscle cramps during a critical match is a natural and necessary part of the journey. It serves as a reminder that the learning process never really ends, no matter how talented you are. As Sinner observed, "Winners are thrilled, while losers attempt to emerge victorious next time. That's riveting, and that's what I'll strive for." Meanwhile, Alcaraz had already faced many difficulties.

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