Djokovic vs Alcaraz promises to be an absorbing clash
Top seed and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia would face 7th seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in the first semifinal of the Madrid Open on Saturday. Djokovic beat Hubert Hurkacz of Poland in straight sets in the quarterfinals on Friday, whereas Alcaraz got the better of five-time champion Rafael Nadal in three sets.
It would be interesting to see whether the 19-year old Spanish sensation is able to repeat his performance against Nadal when he faces Djokovic. Quite understandably, he would be the crowd favorite in Saturday’s match. However, he would also have to play close to his best to topple the Serbian.
On that note, we’ll take a look at three factors that might determine the outcome of the match:
#1 Novak Djokovic’s ability to stay in the rally through crosscourt backhand exchanges with Carlos Alcaraz:
Djokovic’s backhand is an excellent defensive stroke
It is common knowledge that Djokovic has one of the greatest backhands in the history of tennis. He would definitely try to use it as a weapon against the Spanish teenager. Nadal could not find a steep angle with his crosscourt forehand to trouble Alcaraz yesterday, but Djokovic’s backhand is arguably more reliable.
Alcaraz succeeded in pushing Nadal into the far corner of the court with angular shots off his backhand and might try to adopt the same tactic against Djokovic. Alcaraz hit more than 10 winners off his backhand alone on Friday.
Hence, one can expect a lot of rallies with lengthy crosscourt backhand exchanges and the player who prevails in most of those would have the upper hand in the match.
#2 Novak Djokovic’s ability to defend against the fierce groundstrokes of Carlos Alcaraz and attack with his forehand:
Alcaraz would look to unleash his fierce groundstrokes against the Serbian
Carlos Alcaraz exhibited a full array of blistering groundstrokes against Nadal and finished the match with 37 winners. He hit 19 of them in the first set alone and offered Nadal no respite. Alcaraz will try to attack Djokovic from the very beginning and also hurt the Serbian with his powerful strokes from the baseline.
However, Djokovic’s defensive abilities can never be undermined as he is no less a defensive player than Nadal. The Serbian’s forehand is going to be an important shot against the Spaniard on Saturday.
As such, Djokovic should not allow Alcaraz to dictate rallies and should attack with his forehand at regular intervals. He should also try to avoid feeding the Spaniard with too many short balls to avoid facing the brunt of Alcaraz’s power..
#3 Carlos Alcaraz’s ability to maintain a high first-serve ratio:
For all his heroics against Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz could not serve very well and ended the match with a first serve ratio of only 56%. With Djokovic, Alcaraz faces one of the greatest returners of all time and the Serbian always relishes his chances against weaker second serves. Hence, Alcaraz’s inability to maintain a high first serve ratio will not go unpunished against Djokovic.
The Serbian is also likely to hit his returns deep like Nadal did from the second set onwards on Friday. That tactic might catch the Spaniard off-guard and not allow him to hit his groundstrokes with the same bite.
Alcaraz might also come to the net more frequently to counter the above tactic. He took the risk of coming to the net against Nadal, who possesses incredible passing shots and won several points doing so. It would be interesting to see whether he repeats that tactic against Djokovic on Saturday.