WimbledonMen's final

Wimbledon 2023: Carlos Alcaraz defeats Novak Djokovic in thrilling five-set final

World number one defeats reigning champion after epic tussle on Centre Court

Carlos Alcaraz finally launched the new generation, one that had been threatening for the last five years to shift Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic but stuttered and blustered and couldn’t quite make it stick.

His five-set win over Djokovic has broken a 20-year dominance stretching back to Wimbledon 2003. Since then, the “big three” along with Andy Murray have shared every title.

The 20-year-old Spaniard, 16 years younger than 36-year-old Djokovic, who was playing in his 35th Grand Slam final, won an epic five-set match that even threatened to be the longest men’s final on record.

Although it fell 15 minutes short of the record 4 hrs 57 mins it took Djokovic to beat Roger Federer in the 2019 final, it was a high intensity, heavy hitting epic between two equal opponents, Alcaraz moving off in low gears and dropping a 6-1 first set before showing in the end why he is the world number one player.


“It’s a dream come true for me,” said Alcaraz. “Even if I had lost, I would be very proud of myself. It’s amazing for a boy 20 years old. After the first set I thought…hmnn. Everyone a good bit disappointed. What can I say about Novak. You inspire me to play. Ever since I was born you are winning tournaments.”

The Alcaraz win was more impressive for the fact it was just the fourth tournament on grass that he has ever played, although he gave notice when he won the warm-up grass tournament before Wimbledon at The Queen’s club.

“I fall in love with grass right now,” quipped the Spaniard, who used carefully disguised drop shots along with his cutting forehand and heavy serves, especially in the closing set, to take the match 6-1, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.

“Not so good for me but good for Carlos,” said a stoic Djokovic. “I have to praise his team. What quality at the end of the match, you came out with big serves and big plays. Amazing. I thought I’d have trouble with you on hardcourt and clay but not this.”

Alcaraz is only the fourth active male player to have won Wimbledon with Nadal, Murray and Djokovic, although when it went to the deciding fifth set the numbers were with him. The younger player had an 8-1 winning record for five-set matches coming into Wimbledon. Making that a better looking 9-1 record also slowed Djokovic’s run towards equalling the Helen Wills Moody mark of 24 Grand Slams, a record for men and women.

“For me I guess when the emotions are settled, I have to be still grateful,” said Djokovic. “I have won close matches, that game against Roger in 2019 I was a match point down, but this is … even-stevens. A tough one to swallow. But again, these are the moments we work for every single day. I did not win today. I lost to a better player, so I have to … move on.”

The 6-1 first set against Alcaraz drew a large gasp from the crowd, as if it was going to be another young player dazzled by the Centre Court glare. A windy day with the roof open, both players had trouble with their service toss, but Alcaraz dug in winning the second set on a tiebreak for 1-1.

It was a dazzling level of tennis, each bringing out the best in each other. Perhaps the turning point was the fifth game in the third set. With Djokovic serving, the game went to the seventh service break point before a forehand into the net from the defending champion gave Alcaraz a 4-1 lead and enough for the set 6-1.

One break of serve in the fourth by Djokovic catapulted the final into a fifth.

There, both players examined each other’s serve but in the third game Djokovic picked himself off the ground to make a return, before Alcaraz murdered it with a backhand down the line.

Frustrated, Djokovic smashed his racquet off the net post in front of umpire Fergus Murphy, enough for a warning from the Irishman. Alcaraz, playing with maturity beyond his years, continued to mix up his game. Djokovic made in-roads but couldn’t fracture his opponent’s serve. Finally, a wide forehand from the Spaniard sent the brilliant Serb out on a long stretch that he just couldn’t make, his return hitting the net, Alcaraz, the 2023 champion, throwing his hands to his head in disbelief.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times