Carlos Alcaraz
Wikimedia Commons/ Neil Tilbrook

Alcaraz beats Djokovic in Wimbledon thriller

World number one Carlos Alcaraz is the new Wimbledon champion, defeating a record-seeking Novak Djokovic in a five-set epic. Both players showed fantastic form, but it was ultimately the younger man who won the day, claiming his maiden Wimbledon title after winning 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 3-6 6-4. For Djokovic, who has reigned at this tournament for so long, it was tantamount to a dethroning – a hint, perhaps, that the long-mooted future of the sport is finally here.

The match was hotly anticipated the moment the draws were announced – somehow, there was almost a sense of inevitability that the two players would meet in the final, given their shared status at the top of the game in recent years. Both had the taste for glory. For Alcaraz, this would be a second Grand Slam title, and his first Wimbledon – he is the most successful player of 2023 so far, already winning five ATP titles. For Djokovic, this was a chance to equal all kinds of records – an eighth Wimbledon, a fifth successive men’s title, and a 24th Grand Slam, equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record.

Djokovic had not lost on Centre Court since 2013, and was not keen on ending that run. And, as the match got underway, it looked like that run may continue – grass is Alcaraz’s least-familiar surface, and the first set was pretty much all Djokovic. The Serb player sailed through the set, swiftly notching up a 5-0 lead in the set with a display of near perfect tennis. There were just two unforced errors by the seven-time champion, and Alcaraz was fortunate to be able to put a game on the board before Djokovic closed it out 6-1.

Alcaraz took the upper hand in the third set, and Djokovic appeared to be flagging a little, making more unforced errors than ever

From there, though, Alcaraz found a gear, and truly entered the match. The intensity increased, with both players attacking and trading sets on the way to a tie-breaker – it was a battle characterised by superb rallies, and phenomenal point winners seemingly pulled out of nowhere, a testament to the quality of the players. Neither player gave an inch, and it looked to be that way in the tie-break too. Eventually, Alcaraz broke Djokovic’s 14-tie-break streak at Grand Slams to win 8-6 and level the score board.

Alcaraz took the upper hand in the third set, and Djokovic appeared to be flagging a little, making more unforced errors than ever. The Spaniard imposed pressure, and more came as Djokovic was warned about the length of time he took on his serves – the Serb also began gesturing to the crowd, which was largely pro-Alcaraz and not shy about it. A pivotal moment came at 3-1, with a 26-minute game featuring 13 deuces and seven break points. It was such a mental and physical battle, and it was evident that both players really needed to win it in order to sustain the set momentum. In the end, it was Alcaraz who succeeded, and swiftly extended his lead as a result, two sets to one.

Djokovic needed to get back into it, and he did, piling on the pressure himself. He was energised, and after Alcaraz missed a volley in a 2-2 service game, he forced the younger player’s hand. Djokovic’s returning was incredible, and he took charge of the set, a double fault from Alcaraz on set point taking the match to a decider.

It could have gone either way, but it was Alcaraz who would drive the momentum. He missed a break point in the opening game, and then saved one after Djokovic missed a volley, sending an almost-certain winner into the net. On Djokovic’s serve, he fell down on the break point – Alcaraz found a backhand, and although the Serb recovered, he couldn’t save the game. He smashed his racquet on the net in frustration, in what felt like the final key moment of the match – Alcaraz was in the ascendancy and, at 5-4, he served out the match. After a battle lasting four hours and 42 minutes, he was the champion.

Many are already comparing this match to the famous ‘changing of the guard’ battle between Pete Sampras and Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2001

After the match, Alcaraz said: “It is a dream come true for me. Even if I lost, I would have been proud of myself. To be able to play in these stages of these occasions – as a boy of 20 years old – is really fast. I’m really proud of myself.”

An emotional Djokovic said: “You never like to lose matches like this but I guess when all the emotions are settled, I have to still be very grateful. I won many tough matches here. Maybe I have won a couple of finals I should have lost so maybe this is even-steven. It is a tough one to swallow when you are so close. I lost to a better player, I have to congratulate him, and move on – stronger hopefully.”

Before the match, Djokovic predicted a “feast”, and he was certainly on the money there. Seeing the top two male players in the world battle each other resulted in top-quality tennis, and it sets the stage for an interesting dynamic going forward. History could have been made in this match, if Djokovic equalled the all-time record, but it wasn’t to be – it’s proof, though, that he still remains a formidable force in the sport and could win much more. But many are already comparing this match to the famous ‘changing of the guard’ battle between Pete Sampras and Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2001, suggesting a young face may be about to dominate the sport once again. Either way, it’ll be fascinating to see how their dynamic plays out.


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