he is back! Novak Djokovic celebrated by tearing his shirt off Sunday night with a cartoonish vibe that rivaled the larger-than-life feats we just saw on the court.
By defeating his last opponent, Carlos Alcaraz Across an astonishing 3 hours and 49 minutes – Longest Final in ATP History – Djokovic reminded us that his career has played out like a huge success over the course of two decades. As Graham Gooch once said to Ian Botham, “Who writes your scripts?”
Above all, this 5-7, 7-6, 7-6 win in the Cincinnati final proved it The rise of another credible competitor – a young successor to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – didn’t diminish Djokovic’s motivation all at once.
Quite the opposite, in fact: It looks inspired by another giant ascent in the making. When you’ve already scored a professional 1,069 wins, routine installers no longer get you out of bed.
For those Brits put off by 1.45am (GMT) or lacking Amazon Prime, this was another epic match that really got attention after Alcaraz – Wimbledon championlest we forget — the quick kill opportunity fumbled at 7-5, 4-2.
At that point, Djokovic was working in the humidity of an Ohio heat wave. Red-faced and wilting, he called for the doctor and at one point looked so flustered that he served three double faults in a row—something none of the former pros in the comment box remember doing before.
But Djokovic is unparalleled when it comes to restarting himself physically. He broke, drawing belief from Alcaraz’s shunky serve game, and saved a match point in the ensuing tiebreaker with a combination of strikes and a forehand.
The third set was the most ferocious of the three, as this time Djokovic failed to serve. Briefly surrounded by some brazenly innovative shots from Alcaraz, Mr. Clinical returned to mechanical precision until his showy opponent finally coughed out the final error: a forehand return that flew wide.
Broken butterfly on a wheel? Perhaps, but the contrast of styles here always makes for an enticing view. As far as men’s tennis is concerned, Djokovic vs. Alcaraz is the only show in town.
The two leading players on the ranking table, they seem to meet each other in every event that they both enter. (A number that is shrinking as Djokovic increasingly limits his schedule.) After previous skirmishes at the French Open and Wimbledon, their record for encounters between each of them is two wins. The tennis suits will invite the two to meet in the final three weeks of the US Open. If not, the whole event might feel like a disappointment.
In an on-court interview afterwards, Djokovic described this as “one of the toughest and most exciting matches I’ve ever been in, at any level, against any opponent”. Alcaraz shed tears at the presentation ceremony as he thanked his brother Alvaro – who was watching from the stands – for his support.
Later, Alcaraz told reporters, “I feel honestly proud of myself. I was talking (in the speech) and I don’t know why I was crying because I’m fighting to the last ball. I almost beat one of the greatest games ever in our sport. It’s crazy to talk about it now,” But I left the field really, really happy with what I did.”
Should Alcaraz be comfortable with this setback? As a British observer, it was tempting to draw comparisons to the 2012 Shanghai final. This was the occasion when Andy Murray, after beating Djokovic at the Olympics and US Open, squandered five match points to tie the two in a head-to-head score at eight wins apiece. .
After Djokovic’s escape, Murray did not hit him on a hard court for nearly three years. He ended up on the wrong side of the score 25-11 against his near-accurate contemporary.
Obviously, this is an incomplete comparison. Alcaraz is already a much more complete player at the age of 20 than Murray, as well as a calm personality who seems far less likely to overcome near misses. He also has time on his side against an opponent who turned 36 in May.
But the moral of the story still seems relevant. It’s a rare day when you have Djokovic at your mercy 7-5, 4-2, 15-0, and those aren’t the kind you want to squander.
Like a tennis circus He rolls over to New York Alcaraz fans can only hope that he and coach Juan Carlos Ferrero can learn valuable lessons, in the same way they did after he played in the French Open 10 weeks ago. No pressure, but the whole sports world is watching.