Cincinnati (Agencies): Novak Djokovic avenged his Wimbledon final defeat to Carlos Alcaraz by beating the Spaniard in just under four hours to win the Cincinnati Open.
The Serb survived match point in the second set before going on to win 5-7 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-4). Top seed Alcaraz beat Djokovic in five sets in last month’s Wimbledon final.
“The feeling that I have on the court reminds me a little bit of when I was facing [Rafael] Nadal when we were at our prime,” Djokovic said.
“I don’t think I’ve played too many matches like this in my life.”
Djokovic compared the draining win to his Australian Open final victory in 2012, when he defeated Nadal in five hours and 53 minutes.
“Each point is a hustle. Each point is a battle. You’ve got to basically earn every single point, every single shot, regardless of the conditions. It’s amazing to be able to experience that with him on the court,” Djokovic added.
Despite the defeat, Alcaraz will keep the world number one ranking for his US Open title defence.
However, Djokovic will return to the top of the rankings if he wins just one match at Flushing Meadows.
The world number two moved ahead of Nadal in the all-time men’s major list after winning his 23rd Grand Slam title at June’s French Open, where he overcame Alcaraz in the semi-finals. Djokovic and Nadal have faced each other 59 times over the past 17 years, while Alcaraz has played just four matches against Djokovic and is tied with the 36-year-old at 2-2.
“It’s amazing playing against you, sharing the court with you, learning from you,” said the 20-year-old Alcaraz, who was tearful after the defeat in Ohio on Sunday. “This match was really close, but I learned a lot from a champion like you. So congratulations to you and your team.”
After missing out on match point in the second-set tie-break, Alcaraz found himself 5-3 down in the third, but he saved two match points to pull back to 5-4 before breaking Djokovic’s serve to level the set.
However, Djokovic went 5-4 up on Alcaraz’s serve in the tie-break before winning the next two points to claim victory in three hours and 49 minutes – the longest best-of-three-sets final in ATP Tour history. “This rivalry just gets better,” Djokovic said. “It gets better and better. [He’s an] amazing player. Tons of respect for him. For such a young player to show so much poise in important moments is impressive.
“Obviously, three sets today, but almost four hours. You just have to put your hats down to a guy like that. He plays so maturely, handles the pressure so well for a 20-year-old.
“We cannot forget how young he is. That’s something that is so impressive about him.” Both players now head to New York for the US Open where Alcaraz will attempt to defend a Grand Slam for the first time, while Djokovic, bidding for a 24th Grand Slam win, returns after missing last year’s tournament because of his Covid vaccination status.