Was Novak Djokovic’s win against Carlos Alcaraz the greatest final of them all?
As the most successful tennis player of all time ripped his shirt and let out a cry of delight after the final point of an incredible Cincinnati Masters final, the tennis world was given a timely reminder – never write off Novak Djokovic.
We should have learned that lesson over the last two decades, yet his stunning win against Carlos Alcaraz in Cincinnati may arguably be the greatest comeback win of his remarkable career.
In the long history of ATP Masters 1000 finals, there have not been many finals better than this as the next great hero of the men’s game pushed the most successful player of them all to breaking point.
Yet the greats find a way to win when the rest accept their fate and amid an epic three hours and 48 minutes of high-quality drama in Cincinnati, Djokovic found a way to win.
Both men appeared to be in tears at the end of this epic contest and it was easy to understand why because both Djokovic and Alcaraz had match points in a game that instantly became an all-time tennis classic.
From an early stage in this match, it was evident that the 23-time Grand Slam champion had a problem and it seemed as if he would not have a solution.
Looking red-faced, dazed and apparently overheating in the Cincinnati sunshine, Djokovic seemed down and out as he fell 7-5, 4-2 behind against a world No 1 who looked ready to confirm he knew how to beat him.
He yelled out at his coaching box in an effort to get assistance before he surrendered the first set and after throwing in three double faults in succession to surrender his serve at the start of the second set, the temperatures that rose during this match appeared to be too much for him to handle.
Djokovic looked unsteady on his feet at times, especially when he was serving from the end of the court where the sun was blazing down.
And even with the Cincinnati fans screaming his name as they tried to give their hero some encouragement, Djokovic had the look of a former champion who could not handle what was coming at him for a young rival who had his number.
Doctors treated Djokovic as he attempted to find a way to control his body heat and whatever they gave him appeared to have the desired effect.
Alcaraz threw in a horrible game to allow Djokovic to break back in the second set, but the Spaniard still appeared to be the big favourite to take the Cincinnati title against a rival who was fresher and hungrier for glory.
A match point came and went for Alcaraz in the second set tie-break and yet Djokovic still looked out of his feet at the start of the third set.
Djokovic found a way to break the Alcaraz serve and served for the match at 5-4, only to surrender his advantage as this compelling contest had another delicious twist.
The final few games and the deciding tie-break completed this sumptuous tennis feast and with Alcaraz’s hand cramping in the final points, Djokovic sensed his moment.
At 6-4 in the tie-break, Alcaraz’s forehand went wide and Djokovic sank to the court to celebrate his 39th ATP Masters 1000 title.
Djokovic has had some incredible battles with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal down the years, but this may have been his most remarkable win yet.
There is no doubt that Djokovic has met his match at last in Alcaraz, but the greatest champion of them all is not ready to give up the winning habit just yet.
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