World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz beat reigning champion Novak Djokovic in a thrilling five-set men’s final on Sunday to win his first Wimbledon title.
The Spaniard prevailed after nearly five hours on Centre Court, eventually winning 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 3-6 6-4, and jubilantly fell onto the grass in celebration before volleying a tennis ball into the crowd.
The 20-year-old becomes the third-youngest Wimbledon champion in the Open Era and adds a second major title to his resume after winning the US Open last year.
Through his extraordinary display of athleticism and skill, Alcaraz prevented Djokovic from leveling Margaret Court for the most grand slam singles titles of all time and Roger Federer at eight for the most Wimbledon men’s singles titles.
But it was anything but straightforward for Alcaraz, who came from a set down against arguably the greatest tennis player in history performing at the peak of his powers.
In the end, as Djokovic’s attempted forehand failed to make it over the net, a new Wimbledon champion was crowned and Alcaraz cemented his status as the leader of men’s tennis’ next generation.
“Well, it’s a dream come true for me,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview afterward. “For me, it’s incredible. As I said, it’s a dream come true to be able to play on this stage, it’s amazing for a boy 20 years old, I didn’t expect to reach this kind of situation fast.
“I’m proud of myself and proud of the team that I have. The work we put in every day to be able to live this experience.”
Seven-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic broke down in tears on the court afterward as he addressed his children who watched the final from the players’ box. “I love you,” he told his family, having already congratulated his opponent. “Thank you for supporting me.”
It was the final everyone wanted. The talented youngster against the veteran who was chasing history and had been winning grand slams for fun, securing two majors already this year.
Many expected Alcaraz to come out all guns blazing and Djokovic was on the back foot early on as he faced a break point in the opening game. But the resilience the 36-year-old has become so well-known for saw him through the danger.
In gusty conditions, Djokovic heaped the pressure back onto the Spaniard in the very next game, racing into a 40-0 lead and three break points. The 23-time grand slam champion converted for the third time asking to land the first haymaker of the final.
Each rally was filled with beautiful sequences of shots, from deft drop shots to powerful winners. BBC commentator Andrew Castle reminded viewers that what they were watching was “real” and not a “computer game,” such was the level of excellence on display.
It was the experienced Serb who took the first set, breaking Alcaraz a second time for a 5-0 lead to put his stamp on proceedings.
It wasn’t that Alcaraz was playing particularly poorly – as he showed with his excellently-placed forehand to win his first game of the match – it was just that Djokovic was almost unplayable at times. No matter what Alcaraz threw at him, Djokovic had an answer – he had just two unforced errors in the first set and secured it in just 34 minutes.
The task before Alcaraz seemed almost insurmountable even at such an early stage of the match. After all, Djokovic had gone on to win all 77 of his Wimbledon main-draw matches after winning the first set.
However, a renewed Alcaraz won the opening game of the second set and what followed was what we have come to expect of the Spaniard: bombastic fist pumps, loud cheers, and confidence. However, ever the neutralizer, Djokovic showed why he’s a perennial grand slam winner, breaking back to drag himself into the second frame.
With Andy Murray, the last man to beat Djokovic on Centre Court, back in 2013, watching on, Djokovic held serve to level the second set in a game that included a 29-shot rally full of bruising shots to save a breakpoint. Djokovic cupped his ear to the crowd after doing so.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts after falling in the Men's Singles Final against Carlos Alcaraz of Spain on day fourteen of The Championships Wimbledon 2023 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 16, 2023, in London, England.
And so, the second set came down to a tiebreak, a daunting task for Alcaraz with Djokovic having won his last 15 tiebreaks in a row in grand slams.
With nothing to separate the two, a moment of brilliance – a backhand down the line past an onrushing Djokovic – won Alcaraz the tiebreak and the set, and a standing ovation from the crowd, too.
The fans were being treated to quite the match.
Midway through the third set came the longest game of this year’s Wimbledon. A marathon of deuces and advantages in what was a microcosm of the match so far. After nearly 30 minutes of tennis, and on his seventh break point, Alcaraz took a 4-1 lead and wrestled control of the set.
Rattled and behind for the first time in the match, Djokovic took a bathroom break and spent almost seven minutes off the court before the start of the fourth set.
The break seemed to help him refocus, however, and he was able to capitalize on crucial Alcaraz errors to clinch the fourth set and even the score.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts as he speaks to the crowd after being defeated by Spain's Carlos Alcaraz during their men's singles final tennis match on the last day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 16, 2023.
The pressure was reaching breaking point.
The defining moment of the match came in the third game of the decider when Alcaraz produced a sumptuous passing backhand to break Djokovic and take an early lead.
The usually unflappable Djokovic smashed his racket on the net post in frustration and received a warning from the umpire.
From thereon in, the crowd cheered each point as if it was a match point, and as the finish line came into sight the players produced some of their best tennis with Alcaraz coming out on top in a match that will live long in the memory.