Chang: Djokovic must take chances against Alcaraz

 - Dan Imhoff

1989 RG champion breaks down how Serbian can come out on top in semi-finals

Michael Chang, Trophee Des Legendes, Roland-Garros 2023© Émilie Hautier/FFT

It is the generational semi-final showdown swirling with hype given what is at stake.

World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, bursting with energy in pursuit of a second major trophy, meets the deposed standard-bearer, 22-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic.

A winner at Roland-Garros as a 17-year-old in 1989, Michael Chang understands the expectations that come with being a breakout star.

He also recognises the pressure of time bearing down on a proven champion.

“If you play against guys that play very well and are aggressive from the back, if you don't mix it up, it's very easy for them to get in a rhythm and if they're in a rhythm it's tough to get them out of it,” Chang said of the showdown.

“I think Novak is going to have to play offensive tennis. He's going to have to take some balls early, take some chances and he's going to have to do it consistently.

“I don't think he's going to want to be out there playing 10 feet back, tracking balls down side to side with a guy who's younger, who's incredibly fit, incredibly hungry to win Roland-Garros.”

Novak Djokovic, quarts de finale, Roland-Garros 2023©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Chang said the chance of nerves affecting the reigning US Open champion - who is 16 years the Serbian’s junior - would be highly unlikely.

“I think he would start that way a little bit but once the match got going, after a few games, I don't think that'd necessarily be a factor,” the former world No.2 said. “He's played Novak and been on these big stages enough already to not be in awe of the occasion, so I don't think so.”

The top-seeded Spaniard has claimed the honours against Djokovic in their only prior encounter in Madrid last May.


Carlos Alcaraz, Roland-Garros 2023, quarter-final© Julien Crosnier/FFT

This will be their first meeting on a major stage, an entirely different prospect.

Former French world No.5 Henri Leconte, runner-up in Paris in 1988, believes Djokovic cannot afford to let the top seed dictate completely on his terms.

“If you let him play a little bit more you will be in a very bad situation because he's hitting the ball so hard,” Leconte said of Alcaraz.

“It's complicated because he has everything. He serves well, returns well. The only thing maybe is he's staying very far back. You have to mix most of the time.

“Try to kick serve and try to play a little bit like John McEnroe was doing - long shots, short ones – that would be maybe more difficult for him. The problem is he has to let you play. If he's on, it's complicated.”