Novak Djokovic could meet world number one Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals
Novak Djokovic could meet world number one Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals AFP News

The 2023 French Open is well into its second week and a mouthwatering semi-final clash between world number one Carlos Alcaraz and defending champion Novak Djokovic looms in the horizon. However, before they book a date to face each other, they will need to get past a pair of strong opponents in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Spanish youngster Alcaraz, 20, is being hailed as the man who could potentially inherit Rafael Nadal's throne as the "King of Clay." However, he still has a long way to go in order to get anywhere near the 14-time Roland Garros champion. After winning the US Open last year, hopes are high that he could claim his first French Open title after recovering from an injury that slowed down the start of his 2023 season.

Djokovic won the Australian Open in January after Alcaraz missed the tournament due to a leg injury. The Spaniard has since recovered and reclaimed the world number one ranking from the Serb. He will want to face Djokovic in Roland Garros in order to assert his presence as the man to beat on tour. Before that, he will face Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas in the evening session on Court Philippe Chatrier on Tuesday.

Tsitsipas is by no means an easy opponent to get past. He made it as far as the finals in 2021, losing only to the great Nadal. However, Alcaraz has a 4-0 record over Tsitispas, with his latest win coming at the Barcelona Open final back in April.

"Right now he's one of the biggest obstacles and challenges for any player to compete against," Tsitsipas said about the Spaniard.

When Alcaraz and Tsitsipas take to the court on Tuesday, they will already be aware if it will be Djokovic or Khachanov waiting for either one of them in the semi-finals.

Djokovic is the favourite to advance, especially after having won the title last year. The world number three is in the form of his life and is yet to drop a set in the tournament so far. He is also extra motivated to win his 23rd Grand Slam title and overtake Nadal in the record books. However, he has insisted that he wants to focus on the task at hand and is not looking too far ahead.

Excitement is certainly building up especially in this side of the draw. However, there are big names in the other quarter-finals as well. Alexander Zverev will be facing Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry, while the all-Scandinavian pair of Holger Rune and Casper Ruud will bid for the other semi-final slot.

Ukraine's Svitolina will not shake Sabalenka's hand

Meanwhile, in the women's draw, Belarusian star Aryna Sabalenka will be facing Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. As expected, there will be tensions on the net once more, with Svitolina vowing not to shake the hands of Russian and Belarusian players due to the ongoing invasion of her country.

In her previous victory over Russian player Daria Kasatkina, she did not offer her hand but gave the Russian a thumbs up after the latter openly criticised the invasion.

Svitolina, like many Ukraininan athletes, has been donating her winnings to help the people of her country. Sabalenka has generally avoided the topic, but she has skipped some press duties in Paris after stating that she did not "feel safe" in the press room. She did not specify the source of the threat, but she is not the first player to have spoken about being uncomfortable while doing interviews on-court or in the media room after matches.

The French Open has been marred by political controversy after the expected tensions between Ukrainian players and those from Russia and Belarus. Likewise, Djokovic was reprimanded after he wrote "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia" on a camera lens after his first round victory.