Wimbledon, England. Novak Djokovic knows a thing or two about the talent and intangibles it takes to win important matches against top players.
He has appeared in 35 Grand Slam finals. He won 23 of them. He played Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer a total of 109 times, both head-to-head. He went 9-5 against them in the Major title matches.
So it was only natural to ask Djokovic who he would compare new men’s tennis star Carlos Alcaraz to after he lost to him in five sets and spent more than 4.5 hours filled with brilliant play and dramatic moments in the Wimbledon final. on Sunday.
“For the last 12 months or so, people have been talking about his game, which consists of certain elements from Roger, Rafa and me. I would agree with that,” began Djokovic, the bitterness of losing 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 and the end of his reign at the All England Club. still sharp.
“I think he’s mostly [the] the best of all three worlds,” Djokovic said.
Left there, it will stand out as a pretty glaring endorsement of the precocious Alcaraz, the Spaniard who won the US Open last year and is now one of only five people to have amassed multiple Grand Slam trophies before he turned 21.
Djokovic then delved into the details.
“He has such resilience and really maturity for a 20-year-old. It’s impressive,” said Djokovic, who has won Wimbledon four years in a row and only seven times. “He has the Spanish bull mentality, competitiveness, fighting spirit and incredible defense that we’ve seen Rafa have over the years.”
With a smile, Djokovic noted what he sees in the young man.
“He has some good gliding lefts that [have] some resemblance to my backhand. Two-handed left hand. Protection. Ability to adapt. This has been my personal strength for many years,” Djokovic said. – He has one too.
When the gist of that score was relayed to the No. 1 ranked Alcaraz, his eyes widened and he exhaled under the white Panama hat that had become his signature accessory at press conferences.
Alcaraz was asked how he would describe himself.
“It’s crazy that Novak [would] so to speak, honestly. But I consider myself a really complete player. I think I have shots, physical strength, mental strength, enough to [handle] situations like this,” he said. “He’s probably right. But I don’t want to think about it. … I’m, shall we say, “the complete Carlos Alcaraz”, but I probably have great abilities from every player.”
Living up to expectations is never easy, and a lot was expected from Alcaraz. Somehow he lives up to all the hype.
He brings exuberant athleticism, quickness, strength and reflexes to the game. It is equipped with a powerful forehand and touch to perform the softest shots.
On a windy day, he produced twice as many winners as Djokovic, 66 to 32. He lost five times in 23 second legs on Sunday – something that Djokovic’s previous six opponents managed to achieve just three times in 103 games. At Wimbledon, he pitched at speeds up to 135 miles per hour. He showed dexterity in the network. He performed in the clutch against Djokovic, coming back from a tie-break checkpoint, winning an epic 32-point game in the third set and saving a break point early in the fifth before realizing his chance to take the lead. for the good.
“Honestly, I’ve never played a player like him,” said Djokovic, who at 36 would have become the oldest All England men’s champion. “Roger and Rafa have their own, obviously, strengths and weaknesses. Carlos is a very perfect player. Amazing adaptability, which I think is the key to longevity and a successful career on any surface.”
One of the hallmarks of greatness is doing something that no one else has done or hasn’t done in a long time.
In August, Alcaraz will travel to New York to defend the US Open title that in one fell swoop made him the first teenager ever to top the ATP rankings, the first teenager to win a men’s championship at Flushing Meadows since Pete Sampras in 1990, he became the first teenager who won the Slam trophy after Nadal at the French Open in 2005.
He is now the first person other than Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray to win Wimbledon since 2002.
As Sunday’s classical competition ended, Alcaraz took to the stands to share the moment with his father and other family members.
“I gave them a big hug, that’s something I will never forget,” Alcaraz said. “I hope I have a photo from that moment because I’m going to keep it forever.”
If he stays on that trajectory, there should be plenty of other trophies, hugs and photos.