The 20-year-old Spaniard surpassed Djokovic 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to win his first Major on grass
Carlos Alcaraz. (Photo | AP)
Carlos Alcaraz. (Photo | AP)

CHENNAI: Carlos Alcaraz is good, eh. Very, very good. That point would have held water even without the way he married skill and fight inside Centre Court on a sun-kissed July evening. In the years to come, it’s highly likely that this will be the match that people will remember when talking about their first impressions of the wunderkind from El Palmar, a nondescript village near Murcia in southeastern Spain. 

It’s very hard to beat Novak Djokovic in the final of a Major (23/35 coming into the final). It’s harder, still, to beat the Serb in five sets in the final of a Major (4-1), especially after losing the first set. The hardest thing, of course, is to take a tie-break off him (15-0 across the last 15 tie-breaks). Alcaraz ticked all of those boxes to hand the 36-year-old his first loss at SW19 since 2016 (in 2017, he retired with an injury after losing the first set). 

What made it possible is to get to the very heart of the true Alcaraz experience. He takes risks others wouldn’t know how to. But taking risks is just one aspect of the Spaniard’s game. He has the belief and the gumption to pull it off. At one point in the fifth set, a failed drop shot didn’t deter him from returning to that favoured shot of his less than a minute later. It led to a winner. It was one of the many fascinating passages of play in a match that contained lots of it. 

The fifth game of the third set was a case in point. Alcaraz is up 3-1 but Djokovic is 40-15 and is looking at a relatively straightforward hold. That’s when this final truly loaded up a few bullets and decided to take the millions of fans on a wild ride. 32 points, 13 deuces, multiple game points squandered... it had everything before a Djokovic unforced error gave the 20-year-old a much-needed insurance hold. Ten minutes later, Alcaraz was up two sets to one and was dreaming of becoming the third youngest men’s winner of this Slam in history after Boris Becker and Bjorn Borg. 

The pendulum had truly shifted after a chastening opening 30 minutes or so. With Alcaraz making errors, Djokovic didn’t need an invitation. All the Serb had to do was be clean. He did with that minimal fuss and the 6-1 scoreline didn’t flatter the 36-year-old, who was chasing a record-equalling eighth Slam on the surface as well as a record-extending 24th overall among men. However, there is a reason why Alcaraz is the real deal; not just the future but the present.

In a display filled with plenty of nous and no less spirit — traits that one hasn’t usually associated with young tennis players whenever they have come up against the Big Three in big finals — the Spaniard won his second Major to go with last year’s US Open. The passage of play that eventually wrapped up the Championship came early in the fifth set. What made it more special — a kind of batons being exchanged — was the manner in which it unfolded. 

After saving a break point thanks to a failed Djokovic volley to make it 1-1, the 20-year-old produced a backhand winner for the ages to break at 2-1. The celebration of winning the point spoke volumes about what he thought of it. 

 Why players like Djokovic have routinely won the biggest titles is their ability to hold serve with minimal fuss immediately after a break. Alcaraz did just that in the next game; a love hold to break open the fifth set. Djokovic tried his damnedest to get back but his mission was foiled. After more than four hours and thirty minutes, the sport’s grandest stage arose as one for the coronation of a new king at SW19. 

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express