Novak Djokovic surpasses Carlos Alcaraz to win first tournament in his return to American soil

Novak Djokovic defeated Carlos Alcaraz, 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) on Sunday to avenge his loss in the Wimbledon final and capture the Western & Southern Open title in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Playing in his first tournament on American soil since 2021, the 36-year-old Serb rallied from a set and break against the world number one, while also saving a championship point to claim his third Cincinnati Open title and the 95th career ATP Tour title

After the three-hour, 49-minute match, which was the longest best-of-three-set final on the ATP Tour since 1990, Djokovic fell to the ground for several seconds before picking himself up and ripping his shirt.

“Definitely one of the toughest and most exciting matches I’ve ever been a part of in any tournament,” an exhausted Djokovic said after the match. “It felt like a Grand Slam final even more than that to be honest. Every game we play against each other goes the distance.”

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In what could be an early preview of the US Open final next month, Djokovic said he hoped to play the 20-year-old “in a few weeks in New York,” pausing momentarily before adding “to the crowd; I don’t know about me, it wouldn’t be nice.”

Alcaraz had the 23-time Grand Slam champion on the ropes in the second set, winning 4-3, before a series of errors, including four unforced errors, breathed new life into Djokovic.

The second set would end in a tiebreaker where the Serb saved championship point to force the deciding third set after winning a 25-shot rally.

In the third set, Djokovic was unable to capitalize on multiple points and the duo would go into another tiebreaker, in which Djokovic would emerge victorious.

“It’s amazing to play against you, to share the court with you, to learn from you,” Alcaraz told Djokovic during the trophy ceremony. “This game was very close, but I learned a lot from a champion like you. So congratulations to you and your team.”

Djokovic took care of the grass during his first-round win at Wimbledon: “Usually I go out on the court with rackets, not towels”
Djokovic was playing in his first tournament on American soil since his US Open final loss against Daniil Medvedev in 2021. Djokovic is not vaccinated against covid-19 and had previously been unable to enter the country for the past two years.

However, the vaccination requirements for travelers outside the US were lifted earlier this year, allowing Djokovic to compete in Cincinnati.

Up next for both players is the US Open, which begins on August 28 in New York. Djokovic will be looking to capture the 24th Grand Slam singles title of his career and surpass Margaret Court for the most all-time, in both men and women.


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