By Paul Lagan at Wimbledon
Alcaraz v Djokovic 1-6, 7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4
They change the guard at Buckingham Palace everyday, but at Wimbledon, it’s a once in a generational changing of the guard and Charly (don’t call him Carlos) Alcaraz is the new king.
Novak Djokovic was seeking an eighth title, he had not lost on Centre Court for more than 10 years, yet this five-setter has set the stall out for the future which now rests with the likes of Rune and Sinner, with Alcaraz the man to beat.
The reflexes of youth, Alcaraz, 20, overcame the toughness of experience.
Inevitably one must bow to the new order. While Djokovic will not doubt attempt to regain the title, at 36 now, he must recognise that his best years are behind him.
The era of Rodger Federer, Rafa Nadal and occasionally Andy Murray is over, the king is dead, long live the king.
It looked like Carlos Alcaraz was a little boy lost and that Novak Djokovic was the big bad wolf ready to gobble him up.
If that sounds a little too fairytale-ish then the first five games of the match on Centre Court was fitting of the description of how the No 2 seed ate the No1 one up.
In just 34 minutes, the first set was over and Alcaraz humiliated 6-1.
Theirs was Djokovic at his sublime best. His unparalleled experience among the players he has faced has meant that he knows what to do, whatever stage the match is in.
Obviously a fantastic first serve will help, as will the ball returning straight down into the court for a winner, as will winning the rare, delicate tip over the nets, that gets the crowd so animated.
It all happened for Djokovic in the opening set. The relief on all by the Serbian’s team and fans was that Alcaraz actually won one game.
But he rallied somewhat in the second, taking then first game on serve.
If Djokovic felt that the 20-year-old would wilt under the pressure of the final and the hammering, he was wrong. twice Alcaraz had Djokovic, whose first serve failed him on advantage. And on the second occasion, he forced the error from the Serbian to take. 2-0 lead in the second set.
There were equal boos to cheers as Djokovic tried to rally the crowd in his f our as he struggled to win his game on game four. He won a long rally but some of the crowd were not impressed by his raising of his hands, demanding applause.
His time to take serve, which inched straight to the wire was also a source of frustration to one member of the crowd who shouted at him to ‘get on with it.’
The crowd certainly like a long rally coupled with a deft drop shot which when returned see the ball whipped past the opponent with speed.
That’s what greeted Djokovic in his first point on serve at 203.
Alcaraz raised his arm in delight with the point won and mist have been ecstatic when he flashed a backhand winner down the line to make it live 30.
At 40 love on Alcaraz serve, Djokovic, who had just lost a point to a clustering forehand from the Spaniard. Look up at his coaches in his box for support. He clearly got none, and just shook his head in dismay.
Alcaraz then finished off the game to go 4-3 up.
Djokovic then had a simpler game to win as the lull simply ramped up the tension as the set arrowed to a conclusion.
Djokovic won a wonderful point to win his game to make it 5-5 and then again signalled to the crowd that that deserved recognition.
And then it was 6-6, with a tie-break to decide the set.
Alcaraz had the first serve, he lost it. Djokovic won his first serve to go 2-0 up, then 3-0.
Alcaraz won his first point, and aced his second to make it 3-2 to Djokovic on serve. A delicate drop shot by Djokovic failed to go over the net and the mini-break was restored at 3-3.
Alcaraz then netted a successful Djokovic drop-shot.
He then wrong-footed the Serbian to pass the ball for a winner to make it 4-4.
A fantastic drop shot by Alcaraz after a series of heavy hitting rallies wowed the crowd as he went 5-4 up.
Djokovic finally was called for a time-violation by the umpire, but won the point as Alcaraz netted a simple wInner.
That made it 5-5, and Djokovic won another pulsating rally to pass Alcaraz to give him set point.
Alvarez responded with a deep shot which Djokovic netted.
The crowd then took turns to support their favourite with shouts of their first names.
Then it was Alvarez’s turn to have set point. The crowd shouted “Carlos, Carlos’.
And then they were on their feet as his produced a fantastic return of serve down the line to win the point and win the second set.
It was. Remarkable turnaround by the Spaniard.
Djokovic lost all sense of invincibility in his opening game of the third set, at break point he looked at the umpire who had called a net cord as if to suggest it didn’t.
That lack of concentration allowed an unforced error that gave Alvarez the game.
The Spaniard held serve despite some excellent play by Djokovic – in particular his first serve was reaping dividends.
At 1-3 on Djokovic’a serve, the most extraordinary game of the tournament took place. Alcaraz came out on top after 26 minutes with seven break points to the Spaniard. It had everything, great returns of serves, smashes, winners down the line. It was quite brilliant.
Alvarez then held his Serb leaving Djokovic serving to save the set. A brilliant forehand down the line, pat the Serbian, saw the first point to Alcaraz, a weak serve allowed him to return well wide of Djokovic, but well in to go 30-love up.
And simple tap into the net by Djokovic gave Alcaraz three set points.
One was saved, the second wasn’t as the ball flashed past a prone Djokovic to give Alcaraz the third set.
The Serbian took a long comfort break before the start of the fourth set and was greeted with boos by the crowd when he finally arrived back on court.
It seemed to affect Alcaraz as he went w0- love down, including a double fault. But he recovered with aplomb.
Alcaraz then had two break points in his favour as an increasingly weary looking Djokovic took to his serve, often missing his first one.
But apparently running on fumes, Djokovic fought back to deuce, and then won the game to make it 1-1 in the fourth set.
Alcaraz then just about held his serve as tiredness started to edge into both players.
The conditioning of youth was so evident at 30-love on Djokovic serve when Alcaraz managed to scramble across the court to thump away a cross-court winner from a Djokovic smash.
But experience and the ability to play the difficult points counts for a lot and Djokovic dug deep in the memory banks to hold his serve at 2-2.
The drop shot worked for Alcaraz once on his service game but when facing a break point, it was an audacious thing to do again- it didn’t work, and Djokovic took the game as a 3-2 lead in the set on his serve, which he held.
So did Alcaraz setting up another end of set climax.
Djokovic then easily held his serve, leaving Alcaraz serving to save the set.
He failed miserably, with even a double-fault at set point leaving the game all square after 3=three outs and 57 minutes.
Djokovic then had the advantage of serving first in the final set.
He held, just, as both players sought to garner the advantage early.
If Djokovic hoped the boy from Murcia would fold, he was given a rude awakening in the following game, where he should have won, but Alcaraz produced three winning drop-shots and a clear winner to take the final set to 1-1 on serve.
Alvarez had break point and a fantastic rally of hard-hitting saw Djokovic slip but recover, send a blistering backhand across court, Alcaraz then returned, and after another rally the Spaniard sensationally whacked a backhand down the line for a thunderous winner and the game.
Alcaraz then won his game to love, the final point an ace to go 3-1 up.
Then it was 3-2. And then 4-2.
The pressure was now firmly on Djokovic’s shoulders’ to pull the set around.
He held his serve. Now Alcaraz had to do his. He lost the first point to give Djokovic a sniff of a break, but won the next to make it 15 all.
Djokovic went long, and then a sensational clipped drop shot made it 40, 15. This was followed by a second serve ace at 108mph.
Djokovic was now facing having to serve to save his Wimbledon crown – which he did to make the final set 5-4 to Alcaraz.
A drop-shot failed in Alcaraz’s opening serve, but it worked in the second point leading to a wonderful lob. Then a fantastic recovery I g to clip the ball back into play to go 3-, 15 up.
Djokovic then swept a cross-shot in to make it 30 all.
A super serve saw Djokovic go long to give the Spaniard his first championship point. The Serbian hit the net and after four hours and 42 minutes, not quite the longest men’s singles final, but the second, Djokovic was finally dethroned and. New king of Wimbledon was crowned.
Pictured top: Action from Centre Court (Picture: Charlie Stong)
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