There is exactly 16 years between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz. But this did not prevent them from signing the most exciting matches of tennis…
I was in Paris in June to follow the French Open matches. I had the opportunity to watch the last days of the tournament and I mostly had only one match in mind. Because Novak Djokovic, who was seeking the 23rd Grand Slam title, could have faced Carlos Alcaraz, who was touted as the “future of tennis”, in the semi-finals. Professional since 2003, Nole’s big fight was finalized when he matched his 2003-born rival. Although the Phillip-Chatrier Stadium was a little sad in the absence of Rafael Nadal, it represented the new face of Spanish tennis in a way. Carlitos could have taken us to the great rivalries of the past against Djokovic.
The match, which went on like the match of the year for two sets, became commonplace after Alcaraz’s cramps at the beginning of the third set. While Djokovic was going to an easy victory, I experienced the sadness of the classic that I could not watch until the end in the stands. It was rare for two 16-year-old stars to put on a terrific level of matchmaking. What’s more, their paths could cross in most upcoming tournaments. In the current tennis atmosphere, there were not many opponents who could prevent this. As I finished the tournament journey with a bitter taste in my mouth, I started to think about where the next stop would be. I wouldn’t have waited long…
There was no doubt that Djokovic would reach the final of 2023 Wimbledon, where he came with the support of incredible statistics. His home was the All England Club, a seven-time champion he has won nonstop since 2018. Who would be his opponent in the final was a matter of greater curiosity. So much so that Alcaraz wasn’t experienced enough on the grass court yet and there were other usual suspects as well. Coming with the morale of his first grass court tournament victory in Queens at Wimbledon, Carlitos advanced in a clear image until the cup match and stood against the Serbian legend for the new curtain of the competition. He proved his maturity on the big stage for the first time by winning the match in five sets, where he lost the first set 6-1 and was on the verge of falling back 2-0 in the second set.
“Novak would taunt Alcaraz at the trophy ceremony with the words, ‘Man, you never give up’ and get the answer, ‘The Spaniards never die’. Their mutual respect was also admirable.”
Two Grand Slams in a row, two great meetings… The competition sought by the tennis world was not far away, with Roger Federer withdrawing from the stage and Rafael Nadal not returning to the equation this year due to injury. The new locomotive of the sport that has risen on the shoulders of rivalries such as Björn Borg-John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova-Chris Evert, Pete Sampras-Andre Agassi and Federer-Nadal in the last 15 years has been found. The sad part was the fact that Novak was 36 years old and we wouldn’t be able to watch it for many years. Just as Agassi and Federer clashed in the early 2000s, time was limited in the clash of generations.
“A three-set fight that lasts around four hours is rare. Even in this detail, how special the new competition was evident.”
Under the circumstances, the match they played at the Cincinati Masters recently was much more valuable than a Masters final. World numbers 1 and 2 met in the finals of one of the most prestigious preparation tournaments before the US Open and created wonders. This time it was Novak Djokovic who turned and won the match that seemed to be going. A three-set fight lasting around four hours is rare. Even in this detail, how special the new competition was was manifested. It is just like the Djokovic-Nadal fights of the past, both sides coming back from the moments called “over”. He would even taunt Alcaraz at the Nole trophy ceremony with the words, “Man, you never give up” and get the answer, “Spaniards never die.” Their mutual respect was also admirable.
Even if you don’t have a lot of wishes for tennis these days when the US Open starts, you can wish for this match to happen again. There will be those who want to steal a role from Carlitos during the two weeks that will be the first time Carlitos will defend a title in a slam, while Nole will strive for the fourth trophy. Daniil Medvedev, Jannik Sinner, Sascha Zverev, Frances Tiafoe and more are waiting in line. However, the unfortunate tournament, which has not given us a Federer-Nadal match for years, can win hearts with a Djokovic-Alcaraz meeting. I don’t think anyone will complain about this situation, except for his opponents.