In order to defeat Carlos Alcaraz for the Western & Southern Open championship on Sunday, Novak Djokovic saved one championship point, making it one of the finest matches in recent memory.
In order to win a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 tournament, the 36-year-old came back from a set and a break down against the World No. 1 and saved a championship point at 5/6 in the second set tie-break. He rebounded to win after losing a chance to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third set. The match lasted an intense three hours and 49 minutes during which both players displayed exceptional shotmaking and mental toughness. Since 1990, it was the longest best-of-three final in the history of the ATP Tour.
“Crazy. Sincerely, I’m at a loss for words. difficult to describe. Undoubtedly one of the most difficult games I’ve ever played, regardless of the competition, player, level, or category. In his on-court interview, Djokovic remarked, “It’s unbelievable. “From the beginning to the end, we both experienced a lot, including numerous highs and lows, fantastic moments, terrible performances, heat strokes, and comebacks.
“Overall, it was one of the most challenging and thrilling matches I have ever played in, and these are the kinds of moments and games I continue to strive for every day. I’ve always known I can perform at my best when it counts, and I’m just waiting for that moment.
The No. 1 player in the world appeared to be in complete control as he led by a set and a break and was two holds away from winning his Tour-leading sixth championship of the year. This came after a remarkable Wimbledon final in which Alcaraz defeated Djokovic in five sets to derail his opponent’s bid to become the first player to win the Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 by winning all four majors in a single season.
While Alcaraz enters the US Open as the No. 1 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Djokovic responded on Sunday in Ohio, and while the Spaniard is defending 2,000 points at Flushing Meadows, the Serbian will enter the tournament only 20 points behind Alcaraz and have a great chance to reclaim the top spot.
During the presentation of the trophy, Alcaraz addressed Djokovic, “It’s amazing playing against you, sharing the court with you, and learning from you. “Even though this fight was really tight, I gained a lot of knowledge from a champion like you. Therefore, thank you and your team.
Djokovic was unable to respond to the top seed because of his obvious discomfort from the stifling Cincinnati heat. However, one subpar Alcaraz service game at 4-3 in the second set provided a little window of opportunity, and Djokovic pounced on it. By the tie-break in the final set, it was the 20-year-old who was physically exhausted and experiencing cramps in his right hand. Finally scoring his fifth title point, Djokovic celebrated by collapsing to the court.
The 95-time tour-level champion avoided losing in the second set tie-break after saving championship point at 5/6 behind his serve with a powerful serve-forehand combination. In crucial situations, Djokovic played his best tennis, leading to victory. With the victory, Djokovic overtook Rafael Nadal and Ivan Lendl to move into third place overall in terms of career match wins, only behind Jimmy Connors (1,274) and Roger Federer (1,251).
It was their third Lexus ATP Head2Head match in less than two months (they are currently tied 2-2 overall). Alcaraz got back at Djokovic in a spectacular five-set Wimbledon final after Djokovic won the Roland Garros semi-finals, where his opponent ironically fought with nerve-induced cramp.
“This competition only gets better. It keeps getting better,” remarked Djokovic. Fantastic player. I have the utmost respect for him. It’s impressive how composed a young player can be under pressure.
Alcaraz required a deciding set in each of his four matches prior to the Cincinnati final and was on the court for 10 hours, 42 minutes, while Djokovic never dropped a set. By the end of the first set, though, it was the latter who was having trouble with the heat. However, after Djokovic overcame his initial physical challenges, Alcaraz’s hand cramped during the crucial tie-break.
Djokovic, who had played all of his matches up until Sunday in the evening, was unable to go through the gears when Alcaraz rediscovered his game in the first set. Instead, he started committing unforced errors and was unable to seize the initiative in rallies.
The 36-year-old Djokovic appeared utterly revitalized after winning the second set, engaging the audience. His younger rival displayed a rare sign of annoyance by slamming his right hand against the armrest next to his bench. Then he was given medical attention in court by an ATP physiotherapist.
It was a tight start to the first set. Over the course of 62 minutes, both players gradually gained control of the game and had chances to get the upper hand. Alcaraz fought back, albeit he was down 2-4, to take the lead.
Both stars swiftly used ice towels to try to stay cool during changeovers on a scorching day. The players tried to find their range from deep in the court during the opening eight games of the match, with rallies being contested nearly exclusively from the baseline. Both men weren’t at their best.
Alcaraz frequently changed the height at which he sent the ball over the net, but his mistakes off his usually powerful forehand wing prevented him from capitalizing on early possibilities. However, as the set went on, the Spaniard started to develop his backhand range, and Djokovic only managed to land one neutral backhand that bounced before the net. Alcaraz secured the crucial break of the set by pressing the 36-year-old’s forehand after regaining serve.
The match’s mood did not alter until Alcaraz committed a string of unforced errors when serving at 4-3 in the second set. Djokovic started to advance and frequently displayed great hands at the net.
The Serbian served and volleyed behind a second serve under duress, hitting two flawless backhand volleys from a perilous position to escape trouble. This proved crucial in the second set tie-break.
The 20-year-old Alcaraz did not have a decent chance to take control of the situation on his championship point since Djokovic blasted a massive serve and smashed a short forehand. After winning a tie-break in both the second and third sets, the 23-time major champion is currently 24-5 in tie-breaks this season.
Djokovic pursued the championship with tenacity. He converted his fifth break point of the match at 3-3 in the deciding when Alcaraz missed a backhand into the net. To return to serve, the Spaniard saved four championship points, but