Montreal: August 3, 2024 - August 12, 2024
|
Toronto: August 4, 2024 - August 12, 2024
Montreal : August 3 - 12, 2024
|
Toronto : August 4 - 12, 2024
ATP
Tour Results

Djokovic Outlasts Alcaraz in Thriller for Cincinnati Title

by Mike McIntyre

August 21, 2023

Novak Djokovic played his first summer hard court event at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati and battled his way to his third title there, the 39th Masters 1000 crown of his career, in an unbelievable final against young rival Carlos Alcaraz.

It was the final that most tennis fans hope for in any big tournament – the World No. 1 and No. 2 going head-to-head for the title. That’s exactly what they got in Cincinnati this year as both players navigated their way to their fourth career meeting. It did not disappoint.

The match hardly resembled the makings of an epic in the early goings. While Djokovic had an early break in the opening set, it was Alcaraz who began finding his range more consistently as he broke back and then took the lead late in the set which he grabbed 7-5. Djokovic was struggling mightily under the hot conditions that felt like 40 degrees Celsius down on the court.

Early in the second set, Djokovic threw in three consecutive double faults while serving at 1-1 and Alcaraz didn’t hesitate to take advantage and grab the break of serve. The trainers and medical staff came out to visit Djokovic on the next changeover as he seemed to be dealing with heat exhaustion.

Read also: Sinner Finally Breaks Through for Biggest Title in Toronto

Just when you thought the match was going to be a relatively routine victory for the 20-year-old Alcaraz, Djokovic came alive and broke to tie things up at four games apiece. For what seemed like the first time in the match, the Serbian was starting to take control of the points and as the sun started to set, he appeared much fresher than before.

Djokovic saved a match point in a second set tiebreak and hung on to take the set after an Alcaraz backhand went into the net. The match was two hours and nine minutes old at this point, but far from over.

The third set was an instant classic unto itself. Djokovic would break to go up 4-3 and then both when he returned at 3-5 and when he served at 5-4, the Serb had championship points in both games. The two opponents were routinely producing points that would be in contention for rally of the year and the fact Alcaraz could do that while down championship points was all the more impressive. He truly seemed like an escape artist in the third set, until eventually he ran out of magic tricks.

Read also: Alcaraz Grinds to Victory in Toronto Debut

Alcaraz found a way to draw even in the late stages of the third set and would force a final set tiebreak. With his hand cramping and the mental pressure perhaps reaching a critical point, Alcaraz had nothing left to give however and Djokovic finally converted on his fifth championship point, falling backwards in disbelief that the match was over after a grueling three hours and 49 minutes. The final scoreline was 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) Djokovic. It was the longest match in tournament history.

While accepting his trophy after the match, Djokovic summed things up as follows:

“Crazy. Honestly, I don’t know what else I can say. Tough to describe. Definitely one of the toughest matches I’ve ever played in my life, regardless of what tournament, what category, what level, what player. It’s unbelievable from the beginning to the end. We’ve both been through so many ups and downs, highs and lows, incredible points, poor games, you know, heat stroke, coming back, just overall one of the toughest and most exciting matches I was ever a part of.”

Read also: Successful Inaugural VR Tournament a Sign of Things to Come

Djokovic is just 20 points behind Alcaraz now in the race for the ATP No. 1 ranking heading into the US Open next week.

Rest of the Field

After the week of their careers in Toronto at the National Bank Open, Jannik Sinner and Alex de Minaur crashed out early in Cincinnati. It just goes to show how grueling the Masters 1000 events are where you’re playing every single day and in hot North American summer conditions too.

While fans were treated to the ultimate final between the world’s top two players, others in the Top Ten weren’t so fortunate. For many players who were looking to establish their games and boost their confidence ahead of the US Open, Cincinnati wasn’t the place to do it.

Here are some of the results at the back-to-back Masters 1000 hard court events for some players that would be considered contenders for the final Slam of 2023.

  • Daniil Medvedev 3-2
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-2
  • Holger Rune 0-2
  • Casper Ruud 1-2
  • Andrey Rublev 0-2

The above top-ten players have a combined total of five victories between them in both events and have taken a big hit in terms of contender status for Flushing Meadows.

Read also: Remembering Novak Djokovic’s 2011 Wimbledon-Canada-US Open Sweep

Canadian Content

It was a small step forward for Felix Auger-Aliassime who got a big win in his opening-round match against former Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. He was then unable to build off that victory, as he was defeated by his doubles partner Adrian Mannarino in the next round 6-4, 6-4.

Felix will be taking a 1-3 summer hardcourt record into the US Open in New York, a tournament where he had his best-ever Grand Slam showing by reaching the semifinals back in 2021.

Doubles

The doubles title was taken by the all-Argentinian duo of Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni, who defeated Jamie Murray and Michael Venus 3-6, 6-1, [11-9]. It was a final contested between two unseeded teams and Gonzalez and Molteni showed they could handle the pressure of a third-set match tiebreak. In the semis, the pair took the final set breaker 15-13 against the No. 2 seeds Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek.

Earlier in the doubles draw, Felix Auger-Aliassime and his partner Adrian Mannarino were defeated by seventh seeds Tim Putz and Kevin Krawietz 6-1, 6-4.