Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Novak Djokovic of Serbia tears his shirt off after defeating Carlos Alcaraz of Spain throughout the last of the Western & Southern Open at Lindner Household Tennis Middle on August 20, 2023 in Mason, Ohio. Matthew Stockman/Getty Pictures/AFP

Novak Djokovic wanted 5 match factors and practically 4 hours to drag off a gritty victory over Carlos Alcaraz and declare a 3rd ATP Cincinnati Open title on Sunday.

A titanic battle between the world’s high two gamers noticed Djokovic — who appeared out on his ft within the second set — save a match level earlier than coming by way of on his personal fifth match level for a 5-7, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/4) triumph.

“It’s loopy, I don’t know what I can say,” mentioned 23-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, who was seen by the medical doctors early within the second set for warmth sickness in a battle that lasted three hours and 44 minutes.

1️⃣👉 championship level saved
⏰👉 3hrs 48mins
3️⃣9️⃣th👉 Masters 1000 title 🏆

The longest match in event historical past, @DjokerNole prevails 5-7 7-6(7) 7-6(4) in a traditional we’ll always remember!@CincyTennis | #CincyTennis pic.twitter.com/DZrVn0IfAW

— ATP Tour (@atptour) August 21, 2023

“It’s robust to explain. It was the hardest I’ve ever performed in my life.

“From begin to end we each went by way of highs, lows, unimaginable factors, unhealthy video games, heatstroke, comebacks.

“Total this was the hardest and most enjoyable match I’ve ever been part of.

“It’s matches like these that I proceed to work for.”

It was one other epic chapter to the budding rivalry between 20-year-old top-ranked Alcaraz and the 36-year-old Serb star, who avenged his loss to the Spaniard in a five-set Wimbledon last final month.

The 2 — who’ve traded the primary rating six instances this yr — are actually degree on two wins apiece of their head-to-head rivalry.

“I really feel pleased with myself, truthfully. I don’t know why I used to be crying as a result of I combat till the final ball,” Alcaraz mentioned.

“I nearly beat one of many biggest of all time in our sport. I left the court docket actually pleased with what I did.”

The 20-year-old unleashed all the things he had at Djokovic and located it wasn’t sufficient.

“It was actually, actually tough taking part in. Novak returns 5, six, seven balls on each level,” Alcaraz mentioned.

“So preventing and working from one nook to the opposite one on each level is de facto robust to cope with for nearly the entire match.

“I left all the things on court docket. I’m working very nicely. However at present, it was robust to cope with all the things that Novak had.”

Novak Djokovic of Serbia poses with the trophy after defeating Carlos Alcaraz of Spain throughout the last of the Western & Southern Open at Lindner Household Tennis Middle on August 20, 2023 in Mason, Ohio. Matthew Stockman/Getty Pictures/AFP

Djokovic, who earned a record-extending thirty ninth victory on the elite Masters 1000 degree, secured the primary break of the opening set at love for a 4-2 lead.

Alcaraz broke again and broke once more for a 6-5 lead then held to take the set earlier than Djokovic left the court docket for a seven-minute change of garments.

Djokovic, clearly affected by the new, muggy situations, was visited by the coach and physician within the second set.

He was damaged to path 2-1, Alcaraz grabbing a 4-2 edge with a drop shot that Djokovic couldn’t contact.

However the 23-time Grand Slam winner broke Alcaraz to drag degree 4-4 on the best way to a tie-breaker.

Djokovic saved a match level at 5-6 and compelled a 3rd set when Alcaraz dumped a shot into the web on Djokovic’s second set level.

By no means unsure

Djokovic headed off to the locker room for an additional clothes change whereas Alcaraz pounded his proper hand on his bench in frustration as he sat down.

The Spaniard — who then wanted to have a finger taped up — was damaged in a nine-minute seventh sport that featured 5 break factors.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates match level towards Carlos Alcaraz of Spain throughout the last of the Western & Southern Open at Lindner Household Tennis Middle on August 20, 2023 in Mason, Ohio. Matthew Stockman/Getty Pictures/AFP

The back-and-forth battle continued, Djokovic unable to transform serving for the match at 5-4 however placing it away two video games later after the longest best-of-three set last in ATP Tour historical past.

A weary Djokovic dropped to the court docket in aid, then bounced up and ripped his shirt down the center as he set free a roar of triumph or agony — or maybe a little bit of each.

“I used to be by no means unsure that I might ship the match when it mattered essentially the most,” he mentioned, including that the rivalry with Alcaraz “is simply getting higher and higher.”

“Carlos is a tremendous participant, I’ve tons of respect for him,” Djokovic mentioned. “He’s so poised at such a younger age.”

Alcaraz will stay primary on this planet and would be the high seed whereas defending his title on the US Open, which begins on August 28.

Djokovic, who declined to be vaccinated towards COVID-19, was taking part in his first US event in two years.

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