Carlos Alcaraz accomplished a historic feat at Wimbledon, dethroning Novak Djokovic, who had been considered the overwhelming favorite and had not experienced a finals loss at the All England Club for a decade.
Men’s tennis finally witnessed a thrilling clash between generations, putting an end to the numerous false starts that had occurred before.
In a remarkable comeback on Centre Court, Carlos Alcaraz, the 20-year-old tennis prodigy from Spain, who has taken the sport by storm since his emergence, achieved the nearly impossible by defeating Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. Djokovic, widely regarded as the greatest player in the history of the game, had dominantly owned the grass court like it was his own backyard.
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Apart from pursuing the Grand Slam, Djokovic aimed to quell the aspirations of another talented newcomer who sought to challenge his stronghold on the sport. With 23 Grand Slam titles to his name, Djokovic has been at the helm of the Big Three era, which includes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and his reign has lasted longer than many had anticipated. Alcaraz now stands as a representative of the next wave of players expected to steer tennis beyond the dominance of the Big Three.
Last year, Alcaraz had already made waves by clinching the U.S. Open title in a thrilling and acrobatic fashion, signaling the imminent shake-up in men’s tennis due to his extraordinary talent. Although he faced an injury and a defeat against Djokovic in the French Open semifinals this year, the buzz surrounding him and his potential never waned.
Alcaraz expressed his victory’s significance, stating that it serves as an inspiration to the new generation, proving that they are capable of achieving great heights in the sport.
After a rough start and battling to avoid embarrassment, Alcaraz tapped into his unique combination of speed, power, and finesse, quickly adapting to the intricacies of grass-court tennis.
During an epic 85-minute second set, Alcaraz mounted an impressive comeback, narrowly avoiding a seemingly insurmountable two-set deficit.
Taking control of the match in the third set, Alcaraz encountered a challenge in the fourth as Djokovic, the four-time Wimbledon defending champion and seven-time winner, found his trademark footwork that had been the foundation of his success.
Despite Djokovic’s reputation as a fierce competitor in the face of defeat, Alcaraz displayed incredible resilience and ultimately secured victory with a score of 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4. In doing so, he not only conquered Djokovic’s immense skills and abilities but also broke his spirit.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 16, 2023
As the momentum swung for one final time, Alcaraz unleashed a powerful backhand down the line, breaking Djokovic’s serve early in the fifth set. The usually composed Serb showed rare frustration as he angrily smashed his racket against the net post. Just moments before, he squandered an opportunity to take control of the match by hitting a floating forehand into the net. This loss to a relative newcomer on such a grand stage, especially Wimbledon, was an unusual and unexpected outcome for Djokovic.
Last month, Djokovic surpassed his long-time rivals, Nadal and Federer, becoming a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion. However, this defeat prevented him from achieving one of the few remaining prizes in tennis—completing the Grand Slam in men’s singles, winning all four major tournaments in a single year. He had come close to accomplishing this feat two years ago, and at 36 years old, an age when most champions retire, he was just eight matches away from making history.
In the final game, Alcaraz showcased why he had been the subject of so much excitement. He demonstrated his array of skills, employing silky drop shots, artful topspin lobs, blistering serves, and a final ripping forehand that Djokovic couldn’t return over the net.
Overpowered with skepticism, Alcaraz dropped to the ground and moved on the grass, his hands covering his face.After exchanging hugs with Djokovic at the net and shaking hands with the umpire, he punted a loose ball into the crowd before making his way to the stands to embrace his parents and coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero.
“Beating Novak at his best, leaving a mark on the world, and being the player to overcome him after his unbeaten streak on that court for a considerable length of time, is absolutely astonishing for me,” Alcaraz communicated.
After receiving the champion’s trophy from Catherine, Princess of Wales, the event drew A-list celebrities like Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig, Emma Watson, Hugh Jackman, and singer Ariana Grande. Alcaraz even had the chance to share a joke with King Felipe VI of Spain, who witnessed the young Spaniard’s triumph.
“Now that I’ve won, I hope you’ll come to more of my matches,” Alcaraz playfully remarked to the king.
On social media, Nadal, one of Alcaraz’s many mentors and the great Spanish player who had dethroned Wimbledon icon Federer in 2008, expressed that Alcaraz had brought “immense joy” to Spanish tennis.
Nadal sent his warm regards, saying, “A very strong hug, and enjoy the moment, Champion!!!” Sadly, Nadal couldn’t partake in that frame of mind because of ongoing hip and stomach a medical procedure.
The loss provided a rare moment for Djokovic, who graciously acknowledged that, at least on this day, he had been defeated by a superior player.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Djokovic remarked about the loss. Holding back tears, he glanced at his son, who was sitting courtside and smiling. “Thank you for supporting me,” Djokovic expressed to his family. “I will give you a big hug, and we can all love each other.”
On the Saturday prior, tennis legend Mats Wilander, a seven-time Grand Slam winner and one of the sport’s most respected voices, had given Djokovic a 90 percent chance of beating Alcaraz and winning all four 2023 Grand Slam events.
“He’s got an abundance of weapons,” Wilander commented. “His knowledge of the sport is unparalleled, and he has honed his game to perfection. The opponents aren’t prepared for him.”
In the initial moments of Sunday’s final match, Wilander’s prediction seemed prophetic. The highly significant men’s match, considered the pinnacle of tennis, appeared to be a contest between two players who had entered Centre Court under entirely different circumstances.
For Djokovic, it was just another regular July Sunday. However, it was Alcaraz’s first Wimbledon final, and the pressure was intensified by the full-body cramps he experienced during his semifinal clash with Djokovic at the French Open the previous month. That had been a significant moment where Alcaraz, the top seed and world No. 1, didn’t live up to the massive hype surrounding him.
Yet, Sunday’s Wimbledon final was different, at least initially.
Right from the start, Djokovic controlled the match, strategically placing low slicing shots that pinned Alcaraz in the back corner of the court, preventing him from going on the offensive. He displayed his dominance by crushing service returns aimed at the brown patches of dirt at Alcaraz’s feet, forcing him to scramble backward.
Within the first half-hour of the match, Djokovic secured a set lead and quickly advanced to a 2-0 advantage in the second set.
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As Alcaraz fought to salvage his first Wimbledon final, the outcome hinged on a pivotal tiebreaker at the end of an epic second set, which lasted three times longer than the first. Tiebreakers are Djokovic’s specialty, as he had come into the final with a remarkable streak of 14 consecutive Grand Slam match victories in tiebreaks.
The intense moment brought out the best in both players, showcasing their powerful serves to the corners, masterful drop shots, and precise winners to save crucial points with their opponent closing in at the net. The electrifying atmosphere in the packed crowd resonated with alternating chants of “Novak, Novak” and “Carlos, Carlos,” echoing throughout the Centre Court overhangs.
However, just when it seemed Djokovic was on the verge of securing a commanding two-set lead, he unexpectedly sent two backhands into the net, providing Alcaraz with a golden opportunity to level the match. Capitalizing on the chance, Alcaraz cracked a backhand return of Djokovic’s serve down the line, equalizing the match at one set each.
In the words of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, everyone may have a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
Indeed, Alcaraz’s shot to Djokovic’s jaw had a significant impact, and Djokovic felt the effect in the third set, resulting in a series of errors from the usually composed player. One particular intense game midway through the set stretched to 13 deuces and concluded with a Djokovic forehand finding the net.
Following his customary approach when trailing, Djokovic took a lengthy bathroom break before the fourth set. During this time, he splashed water on his face and engaged in pep talk with himself in the mirror. As usual, he emerged from the break transformed, reclaiming control of the match by breaking Alcaraz’s serve midway through the set. Djokovic managed to get back into Alcaraz’s head, causing the young player to become edgy and defensive, leading to a crucial double-fault.
Nearly four hours into the intense battle, they found themselves right back where they had started. With almost five hours of gripping drama, the fate of the match would come down to just a few critical moments.
Reflecting on Alcaraz’s performance, Djokovic admitted to being surprised by the young player’s prowess. In his eyes, Alcaraz had incorporated elements of Djokovic’s, Nadal’s, and Federer’s styles and demonstrated exceptional skills on grass—Djokovic’s favored surface—far earlier than he had anticipated.”I haven’t confronted a player like him, ever,” Djokovic recognized.
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