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Alcaraz and Djokovic play their cards close to their chest

Both have had their minor ups and downs and have been far from offering us the best version of themselves, but I don’t think they needed to resort to it yet

Carlos Alcaraz US Open
Alcaraz prepares to serve during a US Open match.Charles Krupa (AP / LAPRESSE)
Toni Nadal

The two top favorites of this US Open — in fact, of any of the most recent tournaments they have participated in — are close to meeting again in the final. After the last two matches the played each other, at Wimbledon and the Cincinnati Masters, fans have been waiting for a new chapter in this nascent rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz.

Both have progressed with no great effort. It is true that the Serb was forced to come back two sets against Laslo Djere in the third round, but it is also true that in the end he had very few problems getting rid of his compatriot. For his part and on that same scale, the Spaniard only had a small setback against Daniel Evans from the U.K., whom he defeated in four sets, instead of three. Both of the players, therefore, have had their minor ups and downs and have been far from showing us their best tennis, but I think that both Carlos and Novak were aware that due to the importance of their rivals they did not need to resort to it either.

Yesterday the Balkan player confidently dispatched Taylor Fritz — an irregular player, visibly ungainly and with somewhat clumsy movements, but who, when he manages to offer a good performance, becomes an extremely dangerous rival. Today Spain’s representative also has a difficult fixture: Alexander Zverev, who is rapidly returning to form after many months of recovery from serious injury picked up in a confrontation against Rafael at Roland Garros last season. It seems that he is closer to recovering the level that he displayed in previous years and that led him to occupy the second seed in the world ranking.

In the round of 16, the German defeated Jannik Sinner in a great five-set match, thus preventing the Italian from repeating, twelve months later, one of the most spectacular confrontations from last year’s tournament: between Alcaraz and him in the quarters.

Particularly, I think that Zverev’s victory was in the interests of the Spanish player. It is true that in his only two matches on a fast court, victory was elusive for Carlos, but this happened quite some time ago. Alexander is once again a very dangerous opponent. When he serves, he has one of the best on the circuit, and this allows him to be very aggressive in his opening shots. However, I think that today, his technique in the rest of the game is still in the process of recovery. This fact and having to face a much tougher opponent will undoubtedly make his chances of victory very difficult.

I can be accused of getting ahead of myself in predicting the scenario in the grand final. And it is true, nothing can be taken for granted, especially with several previous matches with tough opponents ahead. Let’s go enjoy them and hope that at least our representative will be our reason to watch the final on Sunday.

Toni Nadal is a tennis coach and the uncle of Rafa Nadal, whom he coached until 2017.

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