There is a vision of how to beat Novak Djokovic on a major score, especially at Wimbledon, and especially at Center Court, where he hasn’t lost in 10 years. It’s just a vision, because few people have ever experienced it. But Rafa Nadal and Daniil Medvedev has managed to beat Djokovic in a major way over the last four years, as well as his own arrogance in not taking the COVID vaccine, or accidentally labeling a ball a linesman in frustration that knocked him out of the 2020 US Open. But the vision is that some player, perhaps inhabited by various Greek muses or Norse gods, or both, would be able to play as much red line tennis as possible for three or four hours. . They would be able to hit every line, not miss the slightest opening, and Djokovic-type hit off the court. Go for everything, and have it all on the roll of the seventies This was the only vision because no one, apart from Nadal, was able, or even willing to grind Djokovic. Because it was not visible as possible.
Until Carlos Alcaraz did it on Sunday.
Although Alcaraz opened the Wimbledon final with the intention of going all out, that plan got him a 6-1 ass-waxing, and he needed a change of attack. From then on. Alcaraz decided to play Djokovic’s game – keep the ball in play, be safe and also keep enough depth on his shots to avoid injury, and be willing to play points that lasted 15 or 20 shots, or more . When the opening itself presented itself, Alcaraz caved, but to do that against Djokovic one must be willing to walk through a desert filled with dogs with bees in their mouths, and when they bark they release bees with you to find them. It is a price that no one was willing or able to pay.
What Alcaraz attempted, and succeeded in doing, is the most difficult thing in sports right now, or certainly in the team photo. To get the best of Djokovic in long rallies and long matches and long sets is not even beyond the sky. It is something that was only seen with the Hubble. Djokovic is one of the fittest athletes, not just tennis players, on the planet. He delights in going the distance, outmaneuvering his opponent, staying put while the other man tries. He made Alcaraz just above him a month ago in Pariswhen Alcaraz struggled to tie the game together and then he looked all over his body and threw in the towel from the stress.
The second series lasted almost an hour and a half. Djokovic has thrown away entire matches in that time. It was a match, a storm in which Djokovic won 16 straight. Djokovic even got the first break in that tiebreak. The numbers are enough for any other player to know he’s fucked before he even swings a racket, before you even go jousting with Novak. Not Alcaraz. He continued to simply put balls back in play, to go out in deep water with the 7-time Wimbledown champion, and frolic when he got there. It was Djokovic who left the openings, and it was the Spaniard who went through the door, whether it was his Mjolnir forehand, or his extended backhand from defensive positions that you are not supposed to shoot points at. Unless you are Djokovic.
It was Djokovic who looked tired, and frustration, and out of answers when Alcaraz pulled him through a 27-minute service game in the third set that Alcaraz didn’t even need. He was already on break, and he could have just Sampras’d it and served out the set himself. But if you are going out-Djokovic Djokovic, you had better be happy not to let his neck out. Alcaraz took that game and the set.
This was still Djokovic though, and he is never dead until you produce a body. Alcaraz managed to get the first serve in the 4th set, Joker bounced, and there would certainly be no escape now. No one tops Djokovic in the fifth set at a major. It is a special place. Especially at Wimbledon, where he used to knock Nadal or Federer to his knees in such circumstances.
Alcaraz seems to have read the entire playbook. He got his first serve pretty straight, kept putting the balls back in play, and sometimes coming up with silly shit like this:
He had the answers. When he reached the net his planes were sure and full of swagger. In the game he missed a shot to go down 0-15, so he hit one better on the next point. Who does that? Against Djokovic? It’s unbelievable that a 20-year-old could take advantage of all the weapons Alcaraz has. And yet, he was doing so, while also entering the bearpit, which is a match with Djokovic that no one leaves. He made Djokovic hit three winners to win one point. He got everything, he drove his opponents nuts until they felt like there was no way out. Which is MY Djokovic
Alcaraz’s first major, last year’s US Open, came without Djokovic in the tournament. He didn’t have a star, you can only play who is in front of you, but he felt that his rise to the top of the men’s tennis game needed validation to get to the top. Ric Flair told you so long ago. Not only did Alcaraz do that, he did it exactly like Djokovic does it to everyone else. There is no limit to where he can go now.