World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain thwarted Novak Djokovic’s quest for a record-leveling 24th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon on Sunday.
Overcoming an early setback, the 20-year-old defeated second-seeded Djokovic 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to clinch his second Grand Slam trophy.
The reigning US Open champion, who had previously endured a semifinal loss to the Serbian just a month ago at Roland Garros, was making his second Grand Slam final appearance. In contrast, 36-year-old Djokovic was stepping onto that stage for a record 35th time.
In an intense battle lasting four hours and 43 minutes, both players demonstrated exceptional skills and mental tenacity. But, it was the Spaniard who better maintained his composure in the decider, securing the victory with an early break in the third game. This marked Djokovic’s first defeat at Wimbledon since 2017 and his first on Center Court in 10 years.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Alcaraz said during the trophy ceremony. “Of course it’s great to win but even if I had lost, I would be really proud of myself with this amazing run, making history in this beautiful tournament, playing a final against a legend of our sport.”
“It’s amazing for a boy, 20 years old, I didn’t expect to reach these kinds of situations really fast. I’m really, really proud of myself and really proud of the team that I have, the work that we put in every day to be able to lift this trophy.”
With this win, Alcaraz matched the Open Era record for the fewest attempts before clinching a second men’s singles Grand Slam title and became the third-youngest man to win Wimbledon in the Open Era.
The victory also confirmed that the native of Murcia would retain his top spot in the rankings post-Wimbledon and extended his current winning streak to 12 matches, all played on grass. Just a fortnight prior, Alcaraz had won his second tour-level grass tournament, the Queen’s Club Championships.
“I must say he surprised me. He surprised everyone with how quickly he adapted to grass this year. He hasn’t had too many wins on grass in the last two years that he played,” admitted Djokovic, who fell short of tying Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slams and Roger Federer’s record of eight titles at the grass-court major.
“I think people have been talking in the past 12 months or so about his game consisting of certain elements from Roger, Rafa, and myself. I would agree with that. I think he’s got basically the best of all three worlds,” Djokovic praised Alcaraz. “He’s going to be on the tour for quite some time. I don’t know how long I’ll be around…I hope we get to play in US Open. Why not? I think it’s good for the sport, 1 and 2 in the world facing each other in almost a five-hour, five-set thriller. Couldn’t be better for our sport in general, so why not?”
On Center Court, the wind conditions posed an additional challenge, and Djokovic was the one who adapted better initially, quickly securing a 5-0 lead in the first set. Alcaraz took 32 minutes to finally score a point, delaying what would become Djokovic’s inevitable first-set victory.
The second set saw Alcaraz make a promising start, breaking Djokovic’s serve at the 48-minute mark to lead 2-0. Djokovic, however, responded swiftly, saving a break point in game four to level the set at 2-2.
As the set progressed, it became a closely contested affair that led to a tiebreak. Although Djokovic took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak, Alcaraz rallied back, fending off a set point at 5-6.
“I would say the tiebreak in the second. The backhands kind of let me down, to be honest. Set point, I missed the backhand. He did play a backhand that was quite long in the court, had a little bit of a bad bounce. But I should not have missed that shot,” Djokovic reflected.
Facing a set point at 6-7, Djokovic served-and-volleyed, but Alcaraz capitalized on it with a powerful return, securing the 85-minute second set to level the final.
Capitalizing on his newly-found momentum, Alcaraz leaped to a 2-0 advantage in the third set, as Djokovic began to show signs of fatigue. The fifth game turned into a marathon, with Alcaraz finally taking a double break to lead 4-1 after 13 deuces and his seventh break point opportunity.
Djokovic managed to fend off a pair of break points to level the fourth set at 1-1, thereby regaining some momentum. He capitalized on this shift, carving a 4-2 lead for himself.
The Serb’s regained momentum was enough to take the final into a deciding set as the contest approached the four-hour mark.
Alcaraz thrilled the crowd when he fired a backhand winner down the line to break Djokovic’s serve for a 2-1 lead in the deciding set. Djokovic’s frustration was palpable as he smashed his racquet against the wooden net post, earning himself a code violation. Alcaraz capitalized on this single break to wrap up a historic victory when Djokovic netted the final shot.
As many deemed this match as one signaling a generational shift, Alcaraz sought to downplay such discussions.
“I did it for myself, not for the tennis generation. Winning against Novak at his best on this court and to be the guy who beat him after 10 years unbeaten on this court, it’s amazing,” Alcaraz said.