Alcaraz’s ‘dream’ Wimbledon can signal changing of the guard

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz raises the winner's trophy after beating Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their men's singles final on the last day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, London on 16 July 2023AFP

Carlos Alcaraz believes his “dream” Wimbledon triumph against Novak Djokovic can signal a changing of the guard in men’s tennis.

Alcaraz ended Djokovic’s run of four successive Wimbledon titles with an epic 1-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory in a final for the ages on Sunday.

The 20-year-old wore down Djokovic over four hours and 42 minutes of unrelenting drama on Centre Court, clinching his first Wimbledon crown and the second major title of his career.

After two decades of Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dominating the sport, Alcaraz says his victory could be the start of a new era.

“It’s a dream. I’m 20. I didn’t experience many moments like this. Making history like I did today (Sunday), it’s the happiest moment of my life,” Alcaraz said.

“Beating Novak at his best on this stage, making history, being the guy to beat him after 10 years unbeaten on this court is amazing for me.

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates after beating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the final

“It’s great for the new generation to see me beating him and make them think they are capable of doing it as well. It’s great for me, and the young players as well.”

When Djokovic won his first major at the Australian Open in 2008, Alcaraz was still three months shy of his fifth birthday.

But with Federer retired and Nadal close to the end of his glittering career, Alcaraz has emerged as Djokovic’s biggest challenger.

Alcaraz, who won his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open last year, has replaced the Serb at the top of the world rankings and his Wimbledon victory may hasten the emergence of a new generation to replace the “Big Three”.

“Beating Novak, winning Wimbledon is something I dreamed about since I start playing tennis,” Alcaraz said.

Djokovic was aiming for a record-equalling eighth Wimbledon title and could also have matched Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24 Grand Slam singles crowns.

Instead, the 36-year-old leaves Wimbledon licking his wounds after beating over-powered by the relentless Alcaraz.

In an ominous warning to Djokovic, Alcaraz said his All England Club win can provide a foundation for more success when they meet again.

‘I grew up a lot’

“Probably before today I didn’t think I was ready to beat Djokovic in five sets in an epic match like this, to stay good physically and mentally against a legend like Djokovic,” Alcaraz.

“I will remember this moment in other Grand Slams and think I am ready to play five sets against him. It probably changed my mind a bit.”

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates after winning the final against Serbia's Novak Djokovic

Alcaraz’s previous clash with Djokovic had ended in defeat in the French Open semi-finals in June, when the Spaniard fell apart after suffering stress-related cramping.

Learning from that painful loss, he held his nerve superbly this time.

“I am such a different player since the French Open. I grew up a lot. I took lessons from that match. I prepared a little bit differently mentally,” he said.

“I handled the nerves better than I did at the French Open. I fought until the last ball. It was a long match. The mental part allowed me to stay there for five sets.

“If I had lost the second set probably I couldn’t have got the trophy, I would probably have lost in straight sets. That gave me a lot of motivation.”

Djokovic’s frustration at Alcaraz’s stubborn resistance boiled over when he smashed his racquet against the net post after being broken in the final set.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic looks dejected after losing the final

But the Serb had no complaints about the defeat and even labelled Alcaraz a combination of himself, Federer and Nadal.

Asked about that glowing tribute, the ultra-confident Alcaraz said, “It’s crazy that Novak say that. But I consider myself a really complete player.

“I have the shots, the strength physically, the strength mentally.

“Probably he’s right. But I don’t want to think about it. I’m the full Carlos Alcaraz, let’s say.”