Alcaraz Wimbledon Djokovic

The first of many for Carlitos Alcaraz. Image: @carlosalcaraz / Twitter

Carlos Alcaraz ignores the inevitable to bag era-defining Wimbledon win

20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz grinned in the face of an inevitable outcome to beat Novak Djokovic in an all-time Wimbledon classic.

Alcaraz Wimbledon Djokovic

The first of many for Carlitos Alcaraz. Image: @carlosalcaraz / Twitter

On July 14th 2019, Novak Djokovic cheated death against Roger Federer by saving two match points against serve in the Wimbledon final. In 2023, young Carlos Alcaraz pulled off something similarly extraordinary against the greatest player in the history of the sport.

ICYMI: Svitolina stunned Świątek nine months after giving birth

Alcaraz edges out Djokovic in all-time Wimbledon classic

The dust has settled on an astonishing tennis match where the two best tennis players in the world slugged it out for the most prestigious prize.

Alcaraz adds his name to the honours list. Image: @wimbledon / twitter

Fear inhibits progress

It’s human nature to feel afraid when the stakes are high and there’s so much to lose. Perhaps 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz doesn’t quite grasp the concept of fear yet, or maybe he’s just one of those rare creatures who was born for the entertainment industry.

In the game where Alcaraz unflinchingly served it out to win the title, the Spaniard, who only turned 20 in May, hit a drop shot on the opening point and fluffed it into the net. Undeterred, he went to the well again on the very next point to draw Djokovic in and then casually stroke a delicious lob over the tall Serb’s head.

To do what Alcaraz did in that moment is so fearless it’s bordering on bonkers. You really do have to try something different to beat a man of Djokovic’s class and pedigree. How did he do it then?

Carlos Alcaraz vs Novak Djokovic in a nutshell

So, time to rewind and summarise a tennis match of almost unthinkable and unprecedented quality. Let’s try, at least.

Novak Djokovic
Nole was in total control of the opening set. Image: @samstreetwrites / Twitter

Alcaraz struggles to get going, Djokovic exerts his authority

Alcaraz looked inhibited, flustered and rushed as Djokovic claimed the first set in typically imperious fashion. Bookmakers already felt vindicated by the overwhelming odds they handed the Serbian maestro to claim his fifth consecutive Wimbledon crown and eighth overall. Those backing him were rubbing their hands in glee. It felt inevitable. Everything about Djokovic when he gets that steely look in his eyes has felt so inevitable down the years. Ask all of his victims.

Carlitos undeterred

Alcaraz seems to be built different though. It’s been said he’s got Nadal’s physicality and defensive instincts, Federer’s stylish, proactive aggression and Djokovic’s mobility and iron-clad mental strength to make him look like some perfect prototype designed in a laboratory. The truth is, Alcaraz is uniquely himself. 16 years Djokovic’s junior, perhaps the Spaniard has enjoyed the benefit of studying the three greatest players of all time while still a child in his formative years on the clay courts of Murcia at his local Real Sociedad club. When he was 13, Alcaraz spoke of Federer as his favourite player.

In the second set, he bounced back in what might go down as the greatest set of tennis contested at Wimbledon this millennium. Alcaraz settled it with a sweet backhand pass as he lapped up the crowd’s wild excitement, who already knew they were in for something special because it was happening right before their eyes.

RYBAKINA: Is this the coldest celebration in tennis history?

Novak swept aside in the third but responds like a champion

Alcaraz dominated the third set, eventually winning a marathon fifth game lasting 26 minutes and containing 13 deuces and seven break points. He had established a 4-1 lead and closed it out with the panache we’re now accustomed to seeing.

Onto set four, and Djokovic responded. Of course he did. The finest returner of serve ever witnessed dealt with Alcaraz’s improving deliveries to force a decider in the final. Of course he did.

At that point, most of the conventional wisdom pointed to him marching towards the finish line as his less experienced opponent would surely crumble under the pressure. Surely?

MACHINE: Mind-blowing Novak Djokovic stats that can’t be true

The pressure cooker fifth

Alcaraz squandered a break point in the opening game of the decider and then saved one on his own serve with some miraculous defensive work. He broke to make it 2-1 after a long exchange which saw Djokovic fall and almost recover, Alcaraz pass him and Novak destroy his racket. Djokovic’s paintbrush was mangled beyond recognition as it left permanent marks on the wooden net post. The service break left scars on his psyche.

Alcaraz stuck to his guns, serving with relentless precision and battering Djokovic with massive forehands into both corners. There were two drop shots with contrasting outcomes at 5-4 when he served the match out, but the cameras will love his lunging backhand drop volley the most, because it took the collective breath away. This guy has every shot in the book and he’s also invented a few of his own.

Djokovic Wimbledon
Djokovic’s racket has seen better days. Image: @thescore / Twitter

Alcaraz already at home on grass

The Spaniard’s tally of consecutive wins on grass, his least favourite surface by far, stands at 12. A title at Queens, his first on the green stuff, has been followed by the most coveted trophy in all of tennis. He did so by beating a man who had triumphed in 33 consecutive matches at Wimbledon and was unbeaten in a completed match at SW19 since 2016.

Djokovic finally cast aside in his back yard

Novak had not lost on the hallowed Wimbledon centre court since 2013 and had amassed 91 Wimbledon match wins. Another absurd fact about him is that he was the youngest active Wimbledon men’s champion until Alcaraz came along, with Nadal and Andy Murray the other two. How does one even get one’s head around something so ridiculous? The arena of statistics is where Djokovic seems to be especially dominant over his peers, but how about a few of these facts which further illustrate the enormity of this achievement?

ICYMI: When does the English Premier League restart?

Djokovic Wimbledon Alcaraz
Novak’s unbelievable streak at Wimbledon is over. Image: @wimbledon / Twitter

Alcaraz rips up the rule book

At 20, Carlos Alcaraz is the third youngest player to win the Wimbledon men’s singles title, behind only Boris Becker and Björn Borg. His second grand slam title means he is the first new male player to win multiple major titles since Stan Wawrinka in 2015. By halting Djokovic’s four-year dominance at Wimbledon, he has denied the 36-year-old the chance of equalling Roger Federer’s record of eight titles.

Wimbledon Alcaraz
There’s a new king. Image: EPA/TOLGA

Magnitude of beating Djokovic difficult to grasp

Three days ago, Alcaraz laugh in the face of an inevitable outcome. There are two layers of irony involved here. Just a month prior, 36-year-old Djokovic wore Alcaraz into the ground in a Roland Garros semifinal where the youngster played through severe cramp. Here, Carlitos stayed the course on that front. He also won the mental battle and, crucially, held his nerve on an occasion that must have felt so foreign. Since when did anybody have the audacity to beat Djokovic in psychological battle?

Tennis will never be the same again after Carlos Alcaraz

1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 was the final score line but it doesn’t begin to describe what went down on an unforgettable afternoon at Wimbledon.

If you happened to watch this high stakes, premium quality piece of theatre then you’re already aware of how lucky you are. Alcaraz will win a host of grand slams in his career and you’d be silly to miss any of the entertainment that gets served up along the way.

Wimbledon Carlos Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic embrace at the end of an all-time classic. Image: @wearetennis / Twitter

Hit up James Freemantle for more insights, analysis and love for the beautiful game of tennis.