With Alcaraz bringing a thunderous end to Djokovic’s monstrous Wimbledon run, have we just witnessed a changing of the guard at tennis’ most prestigious court?
Djokovic has been one the domineering forces in men’s single tennis for the past 10 years, as part of the big 3 he has helped to shape the game of tennis into what it is and has stamped his championship authority into the history books as it only takes one look as his record breaking runs to get an idea of why he is so revered within the sport. Heading into Wimbledon, this head-to-head was probably the most hotly anticipated match providing that the number 1 and number 2 seeds would make it into the final. Looking back at their previous matches against each other they were coming in on equal terms having both scored one a piece, however Alcaraz was somewhat of an unknown given his limited experience on grass courts as opposed to Djokovic coming in as the reigning champion having achieved 4 back to back Wimbledon championships.
During their first meeting in Madrid 2022 Alcaraz pulled off a big upset to take a victory against Djokovic, however this run of success against Novak would not continue as their second meeting at Roland Garros this year would bring Alcaraz’s championship hopes to an end in the semifinals as Djokovic went on to take the 2023 French Open title, setting yet another record. This set the stage perfectly for Wimbledon as many people expected a showdown, a battle of the ages that would see the present vs the future on the biggest stage of all. The match started and Djokovic took an early lead, his first few games then turned into a worrying 5-0 set leading many to believe that a Wimbledon final in 2023 may have been a step too far for Alcaraz as it was starting to look as though he was crumbling under the pressure. He managed to take one game but Djokovic took the set in what was a more than comfortable lead.
Just as everyone started to feel a sense of déjà vu, following the French Open, Alcaraz seemingly switched gears creating a seismic shift in the game that even took Djokovic a couple of sets to get on top of. There was a plethora of nail biting moments throughout the entirety of the match but the first that we have to mention is the tie break in the second set. With Djokovic having won his previous 14 tie breaks at Grand Slams the odds were heavily in his favour, as they had been heading into the final, but to our surprise this was the moment that Carlos stepped up in the match and asserted his dominance over the game. The significance of this tie break was universally felt as it would provide the winner with a much needed boost of momentum that they could implement on the rest of their game. Alcaraz came out on top and we saw exactly how that confidence from winning the tie break enhanced his game over the next couple of sets, amplifying his attack against Djokovic. The match went on to test the players not only physically but it was a real endurance test of their mental strength as just as we were getting over the tie break in the second set, we saw a 26 minute mini epic within the larger spectacle that saw 13 deuces before Alcaraz finally took the fourth game in the third set.
However, Djokovic saw a sudden resurgence in the fourth set that stopped Alcaraz in his tracks, this was the moment when it started to look as though Djokovic was returning to being the player that we’ve become well accustomed to, just when you though he was down and out he reminds you why it’s ever over until the final point has been played. He put on a frighteningly good game in the fourth set which took the match down to a final decider in the fifth set. The pressure was mounting and had gripped everyone as we were on the edge of our seats waiting to find out who would have the power to persevere and push through to become the Wimbledon champion in 2023. As the fifth set played out, Alcaraz had the final serve for the match and this moment showed exactly what he was made of, if he were to falter at any moment it would’ve been in the Wimbledon final against Djokovic as he served for the match in the fifth set, but instead he done what he couldn’t at Roland Garros and beat Djokovic. He answered all of the questions that were asked of him heading into this final and reaffirmed his position as the future of the sport.
So, what’s next? With Djokovic still at the top of his game and Alcaraz sure to improve over the next few years surely this will not be the last titanic battle that we see between these two?
Immediately after the match Djokovic was quick to congratulate his opponent along with the rest of the tennis world, from legends to fans, who were all still in awe at the magnitude of the match that they’d just witnessed. One of the most interesting comments following the match was hearing Alcaraz mention how he changed his preparation coming into Wimbledon following his earlier loss as Roland Garros. Whatever changes were made since the French Open have clearly worked with Djokovic even noting that he was “surprised by how quickly he [Alcaraz] adapted to grass this year”.
As the dust settle on what has been an eventful two weeks, we can look forward to plenty more to come in the Alcaraz-Djokovic rivalry and if Sunday was anything to go by, we can rest assured that tennis is in good hands for the next few years at least.