Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic are just one match away from meeting in the final of the Cincinnati Masters, a hope which the young Spaniard, the current world No.1, had expressed a desire for at the start of the Western & Southern event.
It was not easy but I am really, really happy to reach my seventh Masters 1000 semi-final and first here in Cincinnati Carlos Alcaraz
And that No.1 spot is now at stake for if Alcaraz fails to make the final, Djokovic could leap-frog him if he, on the other hand, succeeds and advances into the title round.
That scenario, considering the battles Alcaraz has had to reach the last four, is clearly possible as he has spent eight hours and 22-minutes for his three victories this week in contrast to Djokovic’s two hours and 15-minutes!
Alcaraz’s fitness has certainly been tested to the full with all his three previous matches having gone to three sets and his next could well do the same when he faces Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz for that final place having taken him the distance in Toronto the previous week.
Following a tough win over Tommy Paul, the American who ended his run in Toronto, he would have thought he would have an easier match against the Australian qualifier, Matt Purcell which proved to be far from the case as the Spaniard had to recover from a set down before advancing into the last four 4-6 6-3 6-4.
It was another topsy turvy match with Alcaraz committing eight double faults as he tried to control his game, the match and the in-form Aussie.
In the third he led 2-0 and had a 40-0 lead for a second break but Purcell held it off and then got himself back on serve before he was finally broken for a third time for Alcarazto advance after two-hours and 11-minutes.
“It was really tough. It was tricky today. He served really well. I think he played well at the net, but I think I played well. I returned well on court and that was the key to getting the win today, to return very well and to focus,” Alcaraz said.
“It was not easy but I am really, really happy to reach my seventh Masters 1000 semi-final and first here in Cincinnati.”
And looking aheadto his match with Hurkacz, who had beaten the Aussie Lucky Loser Alexei Popyrin 6-1 7-6(8), he added recollecting his encounter with him last week: “It was a tough match in Toronto, He is playing great tennis here and the court is a little bit faster than Toronto, so it is probably better for his game with his big serve. I need to be focused on return to put as much as I can in court.”
In the bottom half of the draw, Djokovic’s relentless and comfortable progress into the last four saw him dispatch Taylor Fritz, the 9th seed, in 61-minutes, 6-0 6-4 to reach his 75th Masters semi-final.
The Serbian ws quickly into his stride to take te firs seven games before Fritz could respond, and when he did, he pulled ahead 4-1 before Djokovic regained control.
“Every match is a new match, a new challenge for both of us,” Djokovic said after his win. “We never faced each other here. Obviously being the No.1 American, he gets a lot of crowd support.
“I just managed to get off the blocks really strong, played an almost perfect, flawless first set. Then I started off really poorly in the second and handed him the break, but from 2-4 down I played really four solid games in the second. Just overall a great performance.”
Djokovic will now take on a fellow Cincinnati champion, namely Alexander Zverev in the semifinal which could help him regain the world No.1 spot.
The German rolled past Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-2 6-2 in 72-minutes and faces a tough task when he takes on Djokovic who leads him 7-4 in their head-to-head, albeit he emerged the winner in their last meeting in the semis of the 2021 ATP Tour Finals