Novak Djokovic stayed on course for a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title in anti-climactic fashion as Carlos Alcaraz’s French Open hopes were hobbled by cramp.
Alcaraz had just won an electrifying second set to level the hugely anticipated match and looked like he might be grabbing the ascendancy when, after hitting a forehand, his right leg seized up.
The 20-year-old initially appeared unable to move but eventually limped back to his seat and was forced to forfeit a service game in order to have treatment.
The crowd loudly jeered when they realised the game had been awarded to Djokovic but that was the least of Alcaraz’s troubles, with the Spaniard, who had been wowing Philippe Chatrier with his incredible movement and dynamism, reduced to little more than walking.
He opted not to retire but could offer little challenge to Djokovic thereafter and won only one more game, with the Serb completing a 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 victory to move through to his seventh final on the Parisian clay.
Djokovic, who has not lost a Grand Slam match since the quarter-finals here last year, said: “First and foremost I have to say tough luck for Carlos. At this level, the last thing you want is cramps. I feel for him, I feel sorry and hope he can recover and come back very soon.
“I told him at the net, he knows how young he is. He’s going to win this tournament I’m sure many, many times. He’s an incredible player. It’s tough obviously for him to not know whether he should finish the match but congratulations to him for the fighting spirit.
“Towards the end of the second set I wasn’t feeling fresh at all. We went toe to toe and then this thing happened. I just tried to stay focused. I saw that he’s struggling but I didn’t want to think too much what’s going on on the other side of the net.
“I’m incredibly proud to reach another final.”
Djokovic will face Casper Ruud in Sunday’s final after the Norwegian dismantled German 22nd seed Alexander Zverev 6-3 6-4 6-0.