Carlos Alcaraz ends Djokovic’s Wimbledon reign in five-set thriller
World number one Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday ended Novak Djokovic’s long reign at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club to win his first Wimbledon title.
Carlos Alcaraz heralded the changing of the guard in men’s tennis as he ended Novak Djokovic’s long reign at Wimbledon with a rip-roaring 1-6 7-6(8-6) 6-1 3-6 6-4 victory to win the All England Club title for the first time on Sunday.
The 36-year-old Serb had been indestructible on Wimbledon’s Centre Court for a decade but finally met his match as he ran out of ideas to stop young gun Alcaraz from hurtling towards the title.
After the 20-year-old had broken for a 2-1 lead in the fifth set with a stupendous passing shot winner, Djokovic’s racket felt the full force of his anger as he smashed it against the wooden net post to leave it in a mangled mess.
That earned Djokovic a second warning in the contest, with the world number two having also been cautioned earlier for taking too much time to launch into his serves.
All that distraction failed to throw Alcaraz off course as he became the youngest man since 17-year-old Boris Becker in 1986 to win the Challenge Cup after Djokovic scooped a forehand into the net, leaving the Spaniard to collapse on to his back in his moment of triumph.
“It’s a dream come true for me. It’s great to win … making history in this beautiful tournament,” Alcaraz said as he cradled the trophy during the presentation ceremony.
To sum up what it meant to play a part in a match billed as the “collision of generations”, Alcaraz then paid tribute to the man who was denied a fifth Wimbledon title in a row.
“I have to congratulate Novak. It’s amazing to play against him. You inspire me. [When] I was born, you were winning tournaments.”
Djokovic, who won his first ATP title when Alcaraz was three years old, looked well on his way to winning a men’s record-equalling eighth Wimbledon crown when he blew away his rival in the opening set.
Playing in front of James Bond actor Daniel Craig, Djokovic must have thought he had left his rival shaken and stirred as he scorched into a 5-0 lead in the blink of an eye.
But once Alcaraz had managed to loosen his limbs and register his name on the scoreboard after 32 minutes, the contest the world was waiting to see finally came alive.
Showing he was ready and waiting to tame the man he had described as “physically a beast; mentally a beast” in the run-up to the final, the Spaniard broke for the first time for a 2-0 lead in the second.
But not for nothing is Djokovic known for being a human backboard and, with so much riding on this result — the Serb was also looking to draw level with Margaret Court’s all-time record haul of 24 majors — he let out a mighty roar that shook Centre Court when he broke back in the next game.
That got the adrenaline pumping through both players as they were soon caught up exchanging brutal strokes in a breathtaking 29-shot rally that ended with Alcaraz firing a backhand long.
With the fans hollering after every Alcaraz winner, and the Serb’s errors, a defiant Djokovic cupped his ear, urging the crowd to show him a bit of respect.
The second set was dripping with drama as Djokovic was left slipping and sliding time and again as he tried to cope with a feast of Alcaraz drop shots that kept coming his way.
At 3-3, Djokovic was left rolling on the turf after he stumbled over while chasing down one such effort.
Although he managed to get the ball over the net, he was still lying flat on his back and could only watch in awe as the ball came back into his half of the court after Alcaraz volleyed a winner with almost his back to the net.
The cheering crowd leapt to their feet to salute the young pretender who was starting to feel more and more at home on the slick surface as he looked to end Djokovic’s incredible 34-match winning streak on the most famous stage tennis has to offer.
With neither player daring to blink, the set rolled into a tie-break where Djokovic was left quietly fuming on the baseline at 4-5 down after getting a time violation warning from umpire Fergus Murphy for taking more than the allowed 25 seconds.
Two points later the Serb stood on the cusp of grabbing a two-sets-to-love lead, but it was not meant to be.
Instead, Alcaraz was saluted by the roaring crowd as he produced a blazing down-the-line service return to win one of the highest-quality sets seen at this year’s championships.
The chants of “Carlos, Carlos, Carlos” rose to a crescendo when, at 3-1 up in the third set, Alcaraz stretched Djokovic to 13 deuces before finally breaking on his seventh break point in a mental and physical battle that dragged on for 26 minutes.
That punched a hole through Djokovic’s aura of invincibility and, although the second seed came back to take the fourth set, his mind and body let him down in the fifth, leaving US Open champion Alcaraz to celebrate a second Grand Slam triumph.
“I thought I’d have trouble with you only on clay and hard courts but maybe not on grass, but now it’s a different story from this year, obviously. Congrats. Amazing way to adapt to the surface,” Djokovic told his conqueror.
“You played maybe once or twice before this year’s Wimbledon on grass and it’s amazing just what you did.
“I’ve won some epic finals that I was close to losing so it’s fair and square,” Djokovic, who saved match points when beating Roger Federer in 2019, told reporters.
“Credit to Carlos, he showed amazing poise in the crucial moments to play attacking tennis and close out the match the way he did. Some regrets, I had my chances, but credit to him.
“I’ve never played a player like him ever. He is a very complete player and proved he is the best player in the world.” DM
Factbox: Carlos Alcaraz
ATP ranking: 1
Grand Slam titles: 2 (US Open 2022, Wimbledon 2023)
Road to the final
First round: Jeremy Chardy (France) 6-0 6-2 7-5
Second round: Alexandre Muller (France) 6-4 7-6(2) 6-3
Third round: 25 — Nicolas Jarry (Chile) 6-3 6-7(6) 6-3 7-5
Round of 16: Matteo Berrettini (Italy) 3-6 6-3 6-3 6-3
Quarterfinals: 6 — Holger Rune (Denmark) 7-6(3) 6-4 6-4
Semifinals: 3 — Daniil Medvedev (Russia) 6-3 6-3 6-3
Alcaraz started playing at the Real Sociedad Club de Campo de Murcia, where his father, Carlos Alcaraz Gonzalez, was the tennis academy director, before making his ATP main-draw debut at 16 in the 2020 Rio Open.
- He became the youngest men’s quarterfinalist in the Open Era at the US Open in 2021.
- He became the first teenager to beat Rafa Nadal and Djokovic in the same tournament when he defeated the duo, who share 45 Grand Slams between them, on consecutive days to win his second ATP Masters 1000 title at the Madrid Open in 2022.
- He defeated fifth-seeded Norwegian Casper Ruud to clinch his first major title at Flushing Meadows in 2022, becoming the youngest champion at the hardcourt tournament since American Pete Sampras (19) in 1990.
- He is the youngest world number one in ATP rankings history.
- He won nine titles as a teenager and is behind only Bjorn Borg, Nadal, Mats Wilander, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi.
- He beat Djokovic to win Wimbledon and become the first player outside the men’s “Big Four” (Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray) to win the Challenge Cup since 2002. DM