Djokovic falls to the ground, exhausted and exhausted, after beating Carlitos Alcaraz in another memorable match, who is crying inconsolably on his bench, releasing all the tension of these two weeks full of obstacles that he has been overcoming until he collided with a being of a thousand lives that saves him a match point and stops him on his way to victory in Cincinnati. “It has been one of the toughest matches of my life,” confesses the Serbian after winning his 39th Masters 1000, the third in Cincinnati, after another match for history (5-7, 7-6(7) and 7 -6(4) in three hours and 50 minutes) in which the last exponent of the old generation, bent in July at Wimbledon against the Spaniard, has once again shown that he is resistant to the change of era.
This time the glory fell to the Serbian in a duel that had nothing to envy to that of London. The two best tennis players in the world met again, and with a wide difference over the rest. They could not fight for number one, already secured by the Spaniard for the US Open, but a final is a final and neither of them left anything. Alcaraz found his tennis in the first set and inflicted such a high rhythm that it left the Balkan completely knocked out, who suffered a drop in tension. The one from Belgrade reappeared when the Spaniard was close to the title to take the second set and in the final round both got involved in a real punching fight from which the most veteran emerged victorious.
The start was positive for the man from El Palmar, who connected again with his right, felt it again and with it moved the Serbian, required for the first time in the tournament. But there is no tennis player who knows how to deal with pressure better than Nole, who accepted the challenge, raised his level and in the sixth game hit his first blow, breaking the Murcian’s serve to target. The one from El Palmar did not flinch, more concentrated and serene than during the whole week, resolved through comebacks; Alcaraz responded instantly and returned the break: 4-4 in 34 minutes of pure tennis.
The king of the tour was playing his best match since the Wimbledon final. Number two, meanwhile, suffered a drop due to the heat and the pace imposed by the man from El Palmar, who was on the turbo; running up and down, spreading her legs to get to the balls and thus, with an intensity worthy of a number one, she broke again and with his service she took the first set 7-5, in an hour of meeting. An unstoppable Alcaraz took the lead against a Serbian who withdrew to the locker room to catch his breath after a first round in which he started solid and ended exhausted.
“We are a rock!” Ferrero reminded him at the start of the next set. “Novak, Novak!” Cincinnati center court yelled, eager for more tennis as the 23-major champion collapsed. However, Djokovic got even worse and, weak and dizzy, hit three double faults in a row and lost serve. He was not feeling well and had to be seen by the doctors. The force of the sun and the intensity of Carlitos knocked him out and he was disoriented on the bench. They took his blood pressure, gave him a pill and he returned to the ring.
From then on, the Serbian revived, recovered the lost energy and warned with two balls of break who knew how to defend Alcaraz. But Djokovic has seven lives, he broke the rhythm shortening the points and recovered the break. Carlitos laughed, who, in the blink of an eye, saw how he went from caressing the Cincinnati trophy, with the indisposition of his rival, to having to serve in order not to lose the second set. He closed his fist and gritted his number one teeth, surprised at the incredible resurrection of the Serb.
The clash then led to the tie break, in which the Spanish could finish off. He came back from 3-1 down and had a championship point, just one step away from triumphing for the first time on this stage and endorsing once again that he is in charge today. However, Djokovic’s seniority and survival instinct prevailed and, once again, when the Serb was on the stretcher he showed his greatness again and took the second round. As already happened in the first meeting between the two in Madrid and also in the last one in London, the match was going to be decided in the last set. “It has been one of the toughest I’ve ever played,” said the champion.
Suspense until the end
The final calmed down for the first time and the games followed one another. There were no more birds, only two competitive machines. The slightest mistake could be decisive. And the first to err was Alcaraz, in the seventh game, when after saving four break balls he fell in the fifth. The 56 Masters 1000 finals played by Nole were beginning to make a dent. Djokovic was at his best and was up 5-3. Carlitos had nothing left but to launch one last offensive. “If he leaves us, he leaves us. But you have to go for it ”, Ferrero asked him, while the energy tank was emptying. Even so, the Spaniard managed to annul two match points with his serve.
The Balkan served to win the tournament and Carlitos had two options for break, but Djokovic neutralized them and enjoyed his third match point, which he wasted again with a double fault. Nobody dared to predict what was going to happen because Alcaraz refused to fall and raised the fourth ball of the championship. Ferrero raised his hands to his head because the two players were raising another monument to tennis and in one of those outbursts, Alcaraz finally broke. Another game began and the stands celebrated it.
The dilemma was resolved again to the tiebreaker, in an ideal synthesis: infinite exchanges, alternations, and more and more doses of drama. Experience is always a degree and finally Alcaraz succumbed. Djokovic consummated the revenge of Wimbledon in an exhausting duel and against a rival who demanded like few others. “This boy just makes him get better and better,” said the Balkan after an endless final and in which he also reminded another player: “I’ve had this experience before, and it was against another Spaniard.”
-Djokovic: “Man, you never give up. I love it, but sometimes you could play shorter points”
-Alcaraz: “The Spanish never die”
-Djokovic: “This sounds familiar to me from having experienced it already…” pic.twitter.com/r49myPFgyU
— Tennis at Movistar Plus+ (@MovistarTenis) August 21, 2023
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