Wimbledon final 2023 Winner Carlos Alcaraz: An all-court monster in the making?

20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz defeated Novak Djokovic to win one of the greatest ever Wimbledon finals, becoming the first player outside of the sport’s ‘Big Four’ to win the title since 2002

Carlos Alcaraz with the Wimbledon trophy on Sunday, July 16. (photo: Getty Images)
Carlos Alcaraz with the Wimbledon trophy on Sunday, July 16. (photo: Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Cometh the hour, cometh Carlos Alcaraz. Just at a time we thought that who could be the next one to ask questions of Novak Djokovic on the Wimbledon grass in the absence of the other Big Two, the young, muscular Spaniard showed sport has a strange way of filling up the void.

The talk in the tennis world after the epic five-hour final at All England Club on Sunday is that if the baton has changed hands. There is an obvious analogy with the way a certain Roger Federer took down Pete Sampras, then a four-time defending champion, in a fourth round game at Wimbledon in 2001 to usher in the beginning of a new era. However, the similarity possibly ends there.

The American retired the very next year at 32 and hence, it was the only Federer-Sampras clash on the competitive arena. Djokovic, now 36 and at the peak of his prowess, will be around for some more time but the emergence of Alcaraz bodes of a classic rivalry — with someone 16 years younger to him — which can only spice up the future slams.  

Interestingly enough, the talk of baton changing hands from Rafa Nadal — the king of clay — and his young compatriot began ahead of the French Open last year. Alcaraz, then 19, showed the makings of a great claycourt challenger and had beaten Nadal at Monte Carlo to build up the expectations but his journey ended in the quarters.

A bulked up Alcaraz, thanks to the silent efforts of his coach and former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero and the backroom boys, did not have to wait long for his first slam as he showed a remarkable consistency on the hardcourt of Flushing Meadows to win the US Open. It helped him keep his date with the world No.1 ranking but as Djokovic admitted in the post-final speech on Sunday, it was Alcaraz and his team’s homework for the grass which caught the seven-time champion by surprise.

When the Serbian breezed though the first set, the buzz was that the pretender to the throne may have to wait for his moment of glory on a surface where he was yet to shine despite a good show on his first bow at the Queens Club. “After the first set, I thought, Carlos, increase the level, everyone will be disappointed’,” a beaming Alcaraz said later.

He certainly did….and how. Up against someone as unparalleled for his return of serves, not to speak of his court movement, Alacaraz seemed to have an answer for everything that the winner of 23 slams threw at him. It was almost, as one of the commentators summed it brilliantly, the Serbian getting a feeling of what it was like to play against himself.  

To begin with, Alcaraz took his serve up a notch — winning 22 of his service games in the final but what stood out was the final one in the fifth set to close out the game on his way to history. A match statistics showed that he served his fastest in the final in whole tournament at 121.3 mph — and often cannily at the Serbian’s body — eventually firing nine aces against Djokovic’s three.

As Alcaraz grew in confidence from the second set, he manoeuvred his illustrious opponent around the court in such a way that it saw the Serbian taking multiple tumbles during the match. While Djokovic had dropped serve just three times en route to the final, Alcaraz notched up five breaks with his variety in the return game as he outhit the seven-time champion by 66 winners to 32.

What was also breathtaking was his array of drop shots – played with the same action as if shaping for volley – which kept on wrongfooting Djokovic repeatedly. This was an unexpected weapon in his arsenal which served him so well and it was simply Alcaraz’s day!

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