The future of tennis is here. Carlos Alcaraz is the future. The Spaniard’s most powerful statement came at Wimbledon on Sunday in the dethroning of seven-time champion Novak Djokovic. The epic five-setter over around five hours at the All England Club against the greatest player is a turning point in tennis history. It certainly felt like the passing of the torch from one generation to another.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic lorded over tennis tournaments for over two decades. With 65 Grand Slam titles between them, they sparked fiery debates on who’s the greatest of all time. Djokovic seemed to have settled with 23 majors, making him the most successful male player with the French Open win.
Why youth failed to rock Federer, Nadal and Djokovic
Djokovic enduring success also pointed to the lack of quality in the new generation of players. Look at the majors in the last ten years or so. Federer, Nadal or Djokovic won most of them. Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka faded after much promise. Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev threatened to take over, but the threat fizzled. Nick Kyrgios’ fearsome talent tended to implode too often.
And Djokovic marched on while Federer walked away into the retirement sunset. Nadal too will follow suit soon as the Spaniard realised that his injury-ravaged body could no longer stand up to the rigours of high-octane tennis.
Alcaraz’s US Open triumph last year gave a glimmer of hope. Here’s a player that could lead the youth brigade. He could blaze a trail for Casper Ruud, Jannik Sinner, Taylor Fritz, Christopher Eubanks, Frances Tiafoe and others.
The Spaniard showed that Djokovic could be beaten on the Wimbledon Centre Court, where the Serb remained unconquered for 10 years. The 20-year-old smashed another myth: Djokovic can’t be taken down in a five-set final. On Sunday, the power and audacity of youth trumped experience and guile. Which is why it felt like the passing of torch.
Several others before Alcaraz have tried to stop the finely tuned Serbian tennis machine. Their success has only been fleeting. Djokovic’s intensity at the majors remained unmatched. Ask Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek was railroaded by the sheer physicality and accuracy of the Serbian in the Australian Open final. Norway’s Ruud endured a similar trauma in the French Open.
How Alcaraz toppled Djokovic
Wimbledon was no different. Sinner would attest to that after falling in straight sets in the semifinal. Would Alcaraz measure up to Djokovic? He had beaten the Serbian earlier, but repeating that against the 23-time grand slam champion in his 35th major final looked an uphill task.
Djokovic’s first-set superiority confirmed that as the Spaniard looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. But then the youngster showed us why he’s considered the hottest talent in men’s tennis. But that wasn’t easy. Djokovic’s 36-year-old legs sprinted down drop shots, and the Serb came out on top at the end of long groundstroke duels.
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With booming serves and bazooka forehands, Alcaraz broke Djokovic’s mental resolve, and rare groundstroke errors crept into the Serbian’s game. But Djokovic wasn’t finished, pushing the final to the fifth set until a silly lapse undermined his effort. A simple drive volley never cleared the net, and Djokovic looked in disbelief. Alcaraz didn’t look back and went on to serve out the match. That’s what champions do.
A Wimbledon win with little preparation speaks volumes of Alcaraz’s talent and ability to adapt quickly. Alcaraz’s win is praiseworthy for a player with experience in only four grasscourt tournaments. True, he came on the back of a win at the Queen’s. But it takes something special to deny Djokovic his eighth Wimbledon title and 24th major.
Alcaraz is special. He’s the future of tennis.