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Novak Djokovic displayed his legendary grit and determination on Sunday, surviving match point to defeat World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz in a dramatic 3-set thriller, capturing a record-setting 3rd Western & Southern Open title in Cincinnati.
The 36-year-old Djokovic prevailed 5-7, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) in the hard-fought final, denying his teenage opponent amid a raucous atmosphere. The nearly 4-hour contest pushed Djokovic to the brink physically in temperatures nearing 90 degrees Fahrenheit. But the Serbian star emerged triumphant after a tiebreak in the 3rd set, claiming his 95th career singles title.
The legendary Serb became the event’s oldest champion at 36 years old, avenging his 4-set loss to Alcaraz in last month's memorable Wimbledon final. He also broke a tie with Pete Sampras and Stefan Edberg for most Cincinnati titles, reaffirming his status as an all-time great entering the upcoming US Open.
Alcaraz Pushes Djokovic to the Limit in Thriller
Despite the age gap between the legendary second-ranked Djokovic and the athletic prodigy Alcaraz, the young Spaniard demonstrated he could go toe-to-toe with one of the sport’s icons. Alcaraz grabbed the tight opening set 7-5 and led the second 4-3 before Djokovic survived a championship point on serve and rallied.
The indefatigable 20-year-old gave Djokovic everything he could handle, contesting gripping rallies and highlight-reel winners for nearly 4 hours. Alcaraz even shook off smashing his right hand against a drinks cooler in frustration during the 3rd set, requiring quick medical treatment before continuing undaunted.
But Djokovic’s unmatched experience and composure in pressure moments ultimately prevailed. The Serbian gave Alcaraz a warm embrace after the 3rd set tiebreaker, then praised his maturity and mental fortitude in defeat. Their emerging rivalry evokes epic clashes between Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in years past.
Cincinnati Crown Caps Djokovic’s Ideal US Open Tune-Up
The drama-filled Cincinnati victory caps an ideal US Open preparation for Djokovic, who missed last year’s event due to his vaccination status. Before that, he was disqualified in 2020 for accidentally striking a linesperson with a ball in frustration. The three-time US Open winner now heads to New York in peak form.
Since being prohibited from playing the Australian Open over his lack of a COVID-19 vaccine, Djokovic has won titles at Wimbledon and now Cincinnati. He’s demonstrated the unwavering drive and supreme skill that enabled him to dominate men’s tennis for over a decade. His Cincinnati performance proves the 35-year-old remains a formidable threat to capture more major titles in the twilight of his historic career.
The Western & Southern Open has long been a prime US Open tune-up, with many past tournament champions going on to triumph at Flushing Meadows weeks later. Djokovic will now rest and recover in hopes of earning his 22nd Grand Slam singles crown, which would again leave him only one behind Nadal’s record tally.
Alcaraz Gains Valuable Experience Despite Loss
While falling just short of defending his 2021 Cincinnati title, Alcaraz gained invaluable experience competing furiously for nearly 4 hours against an all-time great. The Spanish phenom has now taken Djokovic to the brink twice in Masters events this year, showcasing speed, stamina, and shot-making abilities belying his age.
Alcaraz will be the top seed at the US Open by virtue of his world No. 1 ranking, which he assumed by winning the Miami Open earlier this year. Pundits consider the prodigy a contender to capture his first Grand Slam title at August’s final major tournament. His relentless performance against Djokovic demonstrated how Alcaraz thrives under pressure and boasts the complete game to break through soon at the highest level.
Between his athleticism, offensive power, and mental maturity, the rising Spanish star appears poised to become a dominant force in men’s tennis for the next decade. Cincinnati reaffirmed Alcaraz has the abilities to win majors and someday reach the sport’s pinnacle. By continuing to gain seasoning against legends like Djokovic, his breakthrough could come quicker than many expected.
Djokovic Finds Fountain of Youth in Historic Cincinnati Triumph
At 36 years old, Djokovic continues extending his prime, playing with the hunger and skill of a decade ago. In the extreme Cincinnati heat, he appeared drained and ready to retire early in the first set. But the Serbian’s fighting spirit and physical resilience saw him persevere when players 20 years his junior may have crumbled.
Djokovic’s level of consistency and performance remains unmatched in the game. He has won at least one Grand Slam title every year since 2010, a mark of sustained excellence impossible to overstate. Every time pundits predict decline, Djokovic reminds why he is considered an undisputed all-time great of the sport.
His dramatic Cincinnati victory exhibited the fire and elite court coverage that could power more major title runs. Djokovic won this year’s Wimbledon crown and has his sights set on a US Open trophy to again close within one of Nadal’s career record. By defying time and outworking rivals half his age, the rejuvenated Djokovic shows no indication he is ready to relent at the top of tennis anytime soon.
Summarised from the original article by: espn.in
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