French Open: Carlos Alcaraz favored to end new No. 1's run

League: Tennis

Posted on: 06 Jun, 2024 at 09:15 PM

Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Alcaraz won't leave Roland Garros with the No. 1 world ranking this week, but the young Spaniard is favored to claim his first French Open title.

Alcaraz reached his first Roland Garros final last year but lost to Novak Djokovic. To get back to Sunday's final, he will need to go through another rising superstar in Jannik Sinner.

The two will meet in Friday's first semifinal scheduled for 8:30 a.m. ET. Regardless of the outcome, Sinner has already assured himself of ascending to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career -- and will become the first Italian man to claim that honor.

Alcaraz and Sinner have split eight previous ATP Head2Head series meetings. That includes a pair of Grand Slam meetings two years ago -- Sinner winning at Wimbledon and Alcaraz exacting revenge at the U.S. Open. Alcaraz went on to win the title and earn the No. 1 ranking for the first time.

Sinner won the only previous meeting on clay, a three-set match in the final in Umag the same year.

The Spaniard is the -160 favorite ahead of Friday's match at BetMGM, where Alcaraz has been backed by 73 percent of the money wagered on the match.

Sinner, who claimed his first career Grand Slam title at this year's Australian Open, has been backed by only 27 percent of the money as the +130 underdog. Sinner entered the French Open dealing with a hip issue, but has dropped only one set through his first five matches.

"I came here with some doubts, physical doubts, and my body seems stronger and stronger day by day, which for me was the main goal coming here," Sinner said. "I'm happy that I have a chance to play here in a very important match for myself in the semis. Then we'll see what I can do."

Alcaraz had been dealing with a forearm injury but has been equally as dominating, dropping only a lone set back in the second round.

"I love these kind of matches," Alcaraz sad. "I love this kind of challenge, to have a really difficult battle against him."

Friday's second men's semifinal will feature No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany against No. 7 seed Casper Ruud of Norway.

Zverev opened as the -115 favorite and those odds have shortened further to -130 with 70 percent of the money backing the German. Ruud's odds have shifted from -105 to +105 with the Norwegian drawing 45 percent of the total bets but just 30 percent of the money.

Zverev has won 11 consecutive matches but has had to survive a pair of five-set marathons to reach his second career Grand Slam final. His only previous one ended in a five-set loss to Austria's Dominic Thiem in the 2020 U.S. Open after Zverev won the first two sets.

"I have a mindset that you have to work harder than everyone else to be the best player," Zverev said. "I think the best players are all doing that.

"For me, I like to work to my limit and, if I do that, playing five sets is not that difficult. I have been doing that over many years now and I am happy it is paying off. I am happy to be in another semifinal; hopefully, I can win one."

Meanwhile, Ruud will be well rested after earning a walkover in the quarterfinals due to Novak Djokovic's knee injury. Ruud has lost in the final in each of the past two French Opens -- falling to Rafael Nadal in 2022 and Djokovic last year.

Ruud also easily defeated Zverev in three sets in last year's semis at Roland Garros.

"I know if the opponents want to beat me, they're going to have to play really good tennis for at least three full sets, and I'm going to try to make it tough for them," Ruud said. "Physically, I'm going to try to be in good shape and make them suffer if I can. With my technical game, I'm going to try to play heavy and play the kind of clay-court tennis that I like playing.

"It's been working well the last two, three years here."

--Field Level Media