Unbelievable final of two giants of the modern tennis, and the longest ATP final in history (3 hours 49 minutes), surpassing Nadal’s effort against Tsitsipas two years ago in Barcelona (3 hours 28 minutes). The Sunday afternoon in the heat (through four hours the temperature dropped from 34°C to 30°C). The entire 1st set was played under the sunlight, and 16 years older Djokovic  showed symptoms of tiredness already as he held for 3:2. He led *4:2 (30-all), but his usually super accurate ground-strokes lost their precision, and Alcaraz not only won the opener, he also led 4:2* in the 2nd set, seemingly having the title in his pocket against the ailing opponent (I have no doubt that Djokovic always exaggerates his physical problems as a part of psychological warfare). Djokovic took a 7-minute toilet break between the sets, drank some fluids delivered from the stands (“creatine!” he shouted to his team), and significantly improved his tennis. He broke back, and actually since that moment to the end, he was playing his standard tennis from physical point of view. Alcaraz had a match point at 6:5* in the tie-break but the Serb saved it with a combination of a big serve out-wide and a forehand winner. At 6-all he decided to implement a serve-and-volley action behind his second serve, and played it perfectly with two volleys. Third set was amazing in terms of quality and drama. Djokovic led 5:3* when Alcaraz gave his all winning three long games in a row. At 3:5 he saved two match points (one after a rally of the match – 13 strokes), another two at 4:5, and four mini-match points at 5-all. So many wasted chances could have had a devastating impact on the vast majority of players, although not on Djokovic, who has lost only thrice squandering match points in his very long career. He was three points away from defeat at *5:6 (0/15), and again three at 4-all in the deciding tie-break when forced Alcaraz’s error during a rally. On the fifth championship point for the Serb, Alcaraz totally mishit his forehand off the conservative second serve, and Djokovic celebrated the victory on his back. “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 what tournament, what category, what level, what player. It’s unbelievable,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “From the beginning ’til the end we’ve both been through so much, so many ups and downs, highs and lows, incredible points, poor games, heat strokes, coming back.” The Serb had lost a very similar match to Alcaraz’s compatriot Nadal, 14 years ago (!) in Madrid. If Alcaraz had won the 3rd set, he would have been the first player to win the Masters 1K title in its 33-year-old history, surviving all matches “2-1” in sets (duration of his five matches: 3:02, 3:10, 2:11 – two games away from defeat, 2:18 – saved a match point, 3:49).
Djokovic’s route to his 95th title:
2 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-4 ret.
3 Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2
Q Taylor Fritz 6-0, 6-4
S Alexander Zverev 7-6(5), 7-5
W Carlos Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) – 1 m.p.
# Comparison of their two super tight matches:
Madrid ’22 (SF): Alcaraz d. Djokovic 6-7, 7-5, 7-6… 3 hours 35 minutes… Total points: 134-131
Cincinnati ’23 (F): Djokovic d. Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6, 7-6… 3 hours 49 minutes… Total points: 133-128
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