Carlos Alcaraz on Sunday ended Novak Djokovic’s long reign at Wimbledon with a 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory to win the All-England Club title for the first time.
The 36-year-old Serbian had been indestructible on Wimbledon’s centre court for a decade, but on Sunday he finally met his match as he ran out of ideas to stop young gun Alcaraz from hurtling towards the title.
In the end, the match delivered all it promised, a see-sawing encounter that saw the pair go toe-to-toe for the best part of five hours.
The final was a rematch of the showdown between the pair in the French Open semi-finals last month when Alcaraz suffered severe cramping.
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Djokovic asserted his authority early, capitalising on Alcaraz’s failure to convert an early break point, and pulling ahead for a 6-1 first-set win.
But the young Spaniard hit straight back, taking the second in a tie-breaker before winning the third by the same margin he conceded the first.
Djokovic, looking for his 24th grand slam and his eighth Wimbledon, called on his vast experience to draw level with a 6-3 win in the fourth.
After the 20-year-old had broken for a 2-1 lead in the fifth set with a stupendous passing shot winner, Djokovic’s racquet felt the full force of his anger as he smashed it against the wooden net post to leave it in a mangled mess.
That earned Djokovic a second warning in the match, with the Serb also being cautioned earlier for taking too much time to launch into his serves.
But all that distraction failed to throw an inspired Alcaraz off course. A stunning lob and an even more impressive volley under pressure resulted in a match point at 40-30 that he made no mistake converting.
Alcaraz became the youngest man in 37 years to win the gilded Challenge Cup after Djokovic scooped a forehand into the net, leaving the Spaniard to collapse to the grass in his moment of triumph.
Instead of Djokovic, 36, becoming the oldest male champion at Wimbledon in the Open era, Alcaraz became the third-youngest – only Bjorn Borg and Boris Becker have won Wimbledon at a younger age.
The age gap between Alcaraz and Djokovic was also the widest in any men’s slam final since 1974.