Not only does the prodigiously talented Alcaraz stand between Djokovic and a record 23rd major title, but the Roland-Garros semi-final also carries enormous significance in determining the official new world order in the men’s game.
With Roger Federer retired and Rafael Nadal injured, Alcaraz and Djokovic are clearly the cream of the current crop (with respect to world No.2 Daniil Medvedev).
Watch Roland-Garros 2023, every match ad free and on demand. Centre court coverage in 4K UHD on Stan Sport
Alcaraz outclasses Tsitsipas
If Alcaraz beats Djokovic he will be guaranteed of retaining his world No.1 status – an already remarkable achievement for the 20-year-old.
If Djokovic, 36, prevails, and goes on to make history in the final, then he will be the rankings top dog yet again.
Of course both men are aware of the seismic stakes and the respect between the pair off the court matches the intensity they will display on it at Court Philippe-Chatrier.
“He carries himself very well. No doubt, very nice guy on and off the court,” Djokovic said of Alcaraz.
“He brings a lot of intensity on the court. Reminds me of someone from his country that plays with a left hand (Nadal). He deserves his success, no doubt. He’s working hard, and he’s a very complete player already.
“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. He’s definitely a guy to beat here. I’m looking forward to that.”
The pair have locked horns just once before, with Spaniard Alcaraz beating Djokovic on clay at the Madrid Masters in 2022.
Alcaraz stormed into the semis with a 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 romp over fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas while Serbian Djokovic was made to work a little harder in a 4-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over the 11th seed Karen Khachanov.
“Since the draw came out, everyone was expecting that match – the semi-final against Novak. Myself, as well. I really want to play that match,” Alcaraz said.
Watch Roland-Garros 2023 live and free on 9now
Edgy Djokovic ‘feeling the heat’
“Since last year, I really wanted to play again against Novak.
“This match is what everyone wanted to watch and it is going to be a really good match to play and to watch.
“If you want to be the best you have to beat the best and he is one of the best players in the world.”
Friday will be Djokovic’s 12th appearance in the Roland-Garros semis and his 45th at all grand slams – just one behind the record holding Federer.
“It’s exactly where I want to be,” Djokovic said.
In contrast, it will be just the second grand slam semi of Alcaraz’s young career, after winning the 2022 US Open.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here