Alcaraz defends Djokovic for ‘controversial’ choices in injury-stricken match

Carlos Alcaraz has leapt to Novak Djokovic’s defence after cramps derailed their highly-anticipated French Open match. The pair split sets before the Spaniard started cramping and he won just one more game after the issue set in. And Alcaraz said some just wanted to create controversy in response to Djokovic’s reaction as he took an off-court break and continued to celebrate while the 20-year-old struggled physically.

Djokovic and Alcaraz finally faced off for the first time in over a year as they clashed in the semi-final of the French Open. It was their first meeting at a Grand Slam and their second overall, with the Spaniard winning their Madrid Masters tie in May 2022.

It promised to be one of the matches of the season after the pair needed more than two hours to get through the first two sets – winning one each. But at 1-1 in the third Alcaraz started cramping and forfeited a game to receive treatment before going on to lose 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1.

The world No 1 was later asked whether the Serb’s toilet break at the end of the second set influenced his physical problems. Alcaraz was also quizzed over his thoughts on Djokovic continuing to celebrate winning points while the 20-year-old was visibly struggling but the Spaniard defended his rival.

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“Many people may want to create controversy and claim that Novak went to the bathroom to stop the game or break rhythm, but no, not in my case,” Alcaraz said in Spanish. “I don’t believe it influenced anything.

“The stress from the first game of the match carried over into the second set, and the physical demands Novak placed on me had an impact. Ultimately, I couldn’t hold on physically.”

The 10-time title winner also supported Djokovic continuing to celebrate despite his own physical woes, admitting he would do the same. Alcaraz added: “As for your second question, I don’t blame him for anything.

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“He had to close the match. It’s challenging to play against someone who isn’t at 100 per cent. While they may experience a downturn, you can’t afford to have that downturn and instead must find a way to close the match. Clenching your fists helps maintain intensity and allows you to close the match as quickly as possible.

“I don’t blame Djokovic for doing that. The truth is, if I were facing someone who was injured or not playing at their best, and I experienced a slump, I would likely do the same. Closing a match is never easy.”

Alcaraz admitted that the cramping was brought on by the nerves of playing such a big match, especially against someone like Novak. But he was hoping that he could learn his lesson before their next meeting.

“Of course playing a semi-final of a Grand Slam, you have a lot of nerves, but even more with, you know, facing Novak. That’s the truth. Yeah, next time that I’m gonna face Novak, I hope to be different, but the nerves will be there,” he said.

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