Carlos Alcaraz has staked his claim amongst the greatest tennis players in history after becoming the first man in 10 years to defeat Djokovic on Wimbledon Centre Court. Now that we’ve had a day to recoup, lets look back at just how it happened.
There was a tense mood amongst the crowd on Centre Court as the time approached 14.00 on a Sunday afternoon. Ever since Carlos Alcaraz defeated Daniil Medvedev to set up the final everyone wanted to see, there was a sense that a classic was about to unfold.
Wimbledon has historically been renowned for its exceptional finals, but the last few years have seen relatively routine victories for the indomitable Novak Djokovic. The master of SW19 in recent years, was in search of a record equalling eighth title and fifth in a row, a win at Wimbledon would also see him equal Margaret Court’s record for the most Grand Slams in history.
Despite his extraordinary talents, few would have thought that this would be Alcaraz’s year at Wimbledon. Yes, victory at Queen’s highlighted to people the potential that Alcaraz has on grass, but surely it would be too soon to think about an Alcaraz victory at Wimbledon?
It was, after all, only his fourth grass court tournament.
Djokovic was the rightful favourite having looked like an unstoppable force running through rather moveable objects on his way to the final.
When the players walked out onto Centre Court, there was an obvious pro-Alcaraz sentiment amongst the contingent of fans who had gathered hoping to witness history.
Initially, it appeared that we weren’t going to get our fairy-tale Alcaraz victory, when Djokovic blitzed through the first set, breaking Alcaraz twice and taking it 6-1.
People were beginning to fear the worse, that Alcaraz was just another young player too intimidated by the might of Novak Djokovic to mount a worthy challenge.
In hindsight, we needn’t have worried.
In a truly exhilarating second set, that swung one way and then the other, there was nothing to separate the two players and it was to be decided by a tie break. Once Djokovic held at 5-6 to take it to the breaker, I must admit that I did believe that the set was concluded.
My pessimism seemed to have been correct when Djokovic lead the early stages of the tiebreak 3-0. The Serb had won 15 consecutive tiebreaks in Grand Slam matches and the writing appeared to be on the wall for Alcaraz.
Despite a spirited comeback from Alcaraz, Djokovic brought up set point at 6-5 and it looked as if Alcaraz would fall two sets behind Djokovic, a deficit that hasn’t been overcome against the Serb since 2010.
But Alcaraz proved why he is a cut above the rest and saved the set point after Djokovic dropped a backhand into the net. He then brought up a set point of his own after an uncharacteristically poor backhand from Djokovic again found the net.
Silence spread across Centre Court as Djokovic prepared to serve. He would’ve been quite satisfied with the first serve he hit, had it not been for the fact that it met Alcaraz’s backhand to produce a perfect return winner.
The crowd erupted with glee as Alcaraz levelled the match at one set a piece and people began to believe again that we could be witnessing something very special.
Alcaraz wasted little time in set three, as he capitalised on this new-found purple patch and broke Djokovic straight away, for the first time in the match. The set continued on serve until 3-1 with Djokovic waiting to serve. What followed was arguably the most crucial game in the match.
In an astonishing game that spanned over 20 minutes and saw 13 deuces, Alcaraz eventually emerged victorious to gain his second break.
While on paper this game may not have looked as crucial as others, through it, Alcaraz demonstrated his ability to triumph on the big points, something that several other players had failed to do against Djokovic.
Alcaraz saw out the set 6-1 after his third break of the Djokovic serve and it looked as if we were to have a new champion at Wimbledon for the first time since 2013.
However, very few people thought that Djokovic would go down without a fight, and he demonstrated his fighting spirit by coming back and winning set four. Breaking the Alcaraz serve twice to take it 6-3.
The final would be going the distance.
Once again, the odds heavily shifted in Djokovic’s favour, but Alcaraz looked confident throughout the break between sets; the result was far from determined.
In a tight opening service game, Djokovic narrowly escaped with a hold and brought up a break point of his own in the very next game. He looked certain to break Alcaraz, making him run all round the court, but after Djokovic missed a drive volley, Alcaraz managed to hold.
The crucial game would come next, as Alcaraz broke Djokovic following a remarkable backhand passing shot. He led the final set 2-1.
The rest of the set went with serve until the score read 5-4, Alcaraz to serve for the title.
It would make sense to assume that Alcaraz would be a bag of nerves, and that looked to be the case when he dropped the first point into the net after a poorly executed drop shot.
But Alcaraz once again demonstrated that he is a man for the big occasion as he won the next two points, one of which with a readjusted drop shot.
Djokovic levelled the game at 30-30, before Alcaraz brought up the moment he had been waiting for: Championship Point.
Another hush spread across the crowd, as they awaited history. Alcaraz bounced the ball a few times before entering his serve motion. He smashed down his sixth first serve of the game at 129mph which Djokovic merely pushed back into play. After a monstrous Alcaraz forehand cross court, Djokovic stuck his return into the net.
Alcaraz had done the seemingly impossible and defeated Djokovic at Wimbledon.
What Alcaraz demonstrated that day on Centre Court will be remembered for the rest of his career, as the moment he proved himself worthy of the mantle he is set to inherit.
Alcaraz showed something that cannot be taught, trained, or mastered. But is something that all great sportspeople possess. A refusal or inability to lose. An ability to produce your best when the situation demands it and to never shy away from the pressure of a big moment.
He is perhaps the most complete tennis player I have ever seen. With absolutely no weaknesses in his game.
At only 20 years of age, the scary thing is, he is only going to get better.
Of all the astonishing things that Carlos Alcaraz showed the world on that Sunday evening on Centre Court, the main one is that a new dynasty has arisen in men’s tennis, one that will be around for a very, very long time.