Alcaraz, Djokovic and the desire for a tasty rematch in the Wimbledon final that “everyone wants”
LONDON – Who wants a Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz? The fans, the press, and surely, even if they can’t say it, the tournament itself.
Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz
Not many professional players dare to talk about a hypothetical final when they still have matches to play. But the Spaniard is a special player. Atypical on and off the court. And in front of the microphones, Alcaraz delights with his honesty. “Everyone wants that final, but the one who wants it most is me,” says the world number one to the accredited media in London. And with a big smile in his face.
This Wednesday he beat his contemporary Holger Rune in three sets. The first Grand Slam match between players of the class of 2003, which had a turning point: after the first set, he screamed as had not yet been seen at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. The reason? He was very tense.
“When I play against someone my same age, it’s true that I feel more nervous, more pressure. I needed that celebration. I didn’t know how to control my emotions and that shout helped me to loosen up, to change my game and, above all, to enjoy myself”, admitted the player who feels capable of winning the tournament: “I have the confidence and the level”.
Never before had a quarter-final been played between two such young players. The 7-6 (3), 6-4 and 6-4 was for Alcaraz, a resounding victory against an opponent that he will see many times on the other side of the net in this kind of instances, and who admitted not having got up feeling good.
But the Spaniard refutes the Dane’s words with a simple philosophy: “This is a Grand Slam, it lasts two weeks. The great players who have won Grand Slams I’m sure have not woken up every day feeling good.”
It is also an important step in his longing for revenge, both against Djokovic and himself.
A little over a month ago, the pressure got to him. In Paris, the mental stress weakened him to such an extent that it made him physically impossible: cramps slowed him down in a match of great tennis. The great task of having to stop the record that a hungry Serbian tennis player was aiming at Roland Garros was too big for him.
Alcaraz arrived at Wimbledon with the lesson learned and with the goal set. He does not shrink.
This Friday he will face Russian Daniil Medvedev, who did not find answers when he met the Spaniard this year. It was in the final of Indian Wells: he did not win more than five games, but Medvedev himself says that the match will be diametrically different, especially because of the speed of the ball, which in California was super slow.
The Russian had to be extremely resourceful on Court 1 against the big surprise of the tournament. The American Cristopher Eubanks played a spectacular tennis that even had him two sets to one on the scoreboard. Kim Clijsters’ advice for playing on grass, and analyzing the tennis from the other side of the Tennis Channel cameras helped the two-meter giant with a powerful serve to have the best weeks of his life.
And Djokovic, in the other key, looks at the rest of the semifinalists and shows off his experience. That of his rivals is nil, zero. None played for the match that gives the right to reach the final. “Do you prefer Novak Djokovic or Andrey Rublev?”, the Italian Jannik Sinner (who will play for the first time not only a semifinal in London, but in a Grand Slam) was asked in the on-court interview after his victory.
The words just wouldn’t come out. Instead, a nervous laugh. As when an answer is so obvious on the one hand, but on the other, any choice issued can play against him. He opted for the politically correct answer: that both are very difficult rivals.
It was before Djokovic signed his 33rd win in a row at Church Road. As the Italian spoke, the Serb was draining the soul out of his opponent. Playing an effective, fast, divine tennis. Right after losing the first set, and with the crowd against him. With defenses that are attacks and points that are hard to explain how they ended up in his favor.
“I think he is playing better and better”, Rublev said.
With that player is the one with whom the world number one wants revenge. With the one who has not lost on Centre Court for a decade. With the one who already has 353 Grand Slam victories. With the one who enjoys the pressure and who says without problems that he is the favorite.
It’s supposed to taste better if that might be the case.