That Carlos Alcaraz and his generation mates are going to dominate the next decade of tennis is a fact. And that Novak Djokovic (37 years old), winner of 23 Grand Slams and 39 Masters 1000 is going to fight until the last of his balls to leave the legacy of the Big 3 at the top is equally or more certain. The best reflection was what was experienced this Sunday in the final in Cincinnati where the fight for domination of world tennis was put back to the test. Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz faced each other after the Wimbledon final. This time luck smiled on the Serbian (5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4)), but not before having squeezed himself in one of the most exhausting matches of his life: “I don’t think I’ve played too many matches like this in my career. He has been one of the most exciting and tough mentally, emotionally and physically I have ever had. He has been a roller coaster ”, confessed the one from Belgrade. With a victory on his return to the US Open, he would be able to take number one from Murcia, who was crying inconsolably at the end of the match: “I don’t know why I was crying because I fought until the last ball.”
The Cincinnati final left several conclusions and the clearest was that Novak Djokovic never gives up. After winning in Melbourne and Paris, he overcame the defeat in London and was planted in the United States after more than two years of absence due to restrictions on those not vaccinated with COVID. In just one week of competition, the Serbian showed that he does not understand successions and maintains the mystique of the great legends of this sport.
If the Balkan continues to dominate the tennis scene for something, it is for knowing how to revive when everything is lost. The birdlife this Sunday, caused by the strong heat in Ohio and the intensity of Alcaraz’s game, made him flirt with defeat. He woke up from the dizziness, was reunited with his game and as soon as he proclaimed himself champion he would tear his shirt remembering another of his most epic matches. ”Perhaps I can compare it with the final against Nadal at the 2012 Australian Open ″, he traced in reference to the episode in the antipodes, where he beat the Spaniard after almost six hours and both starred in the longest lasting final in history.
After his battles against Federer and Nadal, Alcaraz arrived
The withdrawal of Roger Federer and the near decline of Nadal, who plans to leave the slopes in 2024, left Novak without a worthy rival to face and with whom to draw out his innate competitiveness, the one that he squeezed against the Swiss and the Spanish: the glorious Big 3. Until a boy from El Palmar entered the scene who went out to the track to enjoy himself, and who between smiles and rackets showed the way to a new era.
“The feeling I have on the track reminds me a bit of when I faced Nadal when we were in the best moment of our careers,” says the man from Belgrade, who in turn explains what it means to battle against Carlitos: “Every point is a battle . You have to win every point, every shot, regardless of the conditions.” The one from El Palmar who, at last found his tennis and his essence, picked up the Serbian’s glove: “For me it’s obviously great that he knows that every time he’s going to play against me it reminds him of playing against Rafa or against the best because that it means we are on the right track. It’s great to hear such things from Novak, who has played iconic matches, historic matches. That means my team and I are doing a great job, we’re on the right track.”
The Murcian arrived in the United States with the aim of maintaining the line shown on the clay and grass tour, but he could not find his game on the surface where he has won some of his best trophies (US Open and Miami Masters in 2022, and Indian Wells champion this year). He suffered during his stay in Toronto, eliminated by Tommy Paul, he experienced a real roller coaster in all his matches in Cincinnati and he let off steam after missing the last forehand in the final: “I almost beat one of the greatest of all time in our sport. I am working very well, but today it was difficult to deal with everything that Novak pushed.
In a week, the still number one, begins his defense of Flushing Meadows without any wild card and with the question of whether the inspired and dominating Carlitos will appear, or if his more irregular version shown in these two previous tournaments will come out. For Djokovic’s part, the Serbian returns to New York in search of his 24th Grand Slam and equals Margaret Court as the most successful tennis player of all time. Fans take their seats before a US Open that promises entertainment and strong emotions. The generational duel continues to burn.
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