Welcome To The Age Of Alcaraz
Novak Djokovic overwhelmed the 20-year-old in the opener 6-1, playing his perfect brand of tennis that we’ve seen for years. Excelling in all departments. Alcaraz had dropped his third straight 6-1 set to the Serb – albeit the two previous were in part due to injury.
Djokovic , who’s been so unbeatable at Wimbledon, looked strong and sure, and ready to claim his 24th Grand Slam and 8th Wimbledon. We knew Alcaraz would rebound. He’s been playing way too good. This beatdown was not going to continue.
I said in my last post, I wondered what Alcaraz would have learned from the French Open. In the first set, he tried his same game of offensive, high-risk, high-octane power tennis and he won one game. His team probably told him ahead of time that strategy wouldn’t work, but now he saw the result for himself, again. So it was time for plan B: copy Novak.
All of sudden, Alcaraz was taking less risk, making more balls, getting Novak on the move, even knocking him down – and Novak went down several times. You could see Alcaraz evolving right before our eyes. From an offensive juggernaut to a smarter, thoughtful and even defensive player.
When Djokovic missed those two backhands at 6-5 in the second set breaker, the match felt over. Alcaraz had figured out a solution had the belief to trust it.
He ran away with the third – outlasting Djokovic in that exhausting fifth game – before Djokovic would rebound in the fourth.
Full credit to Djokovic. The guy blew that set point in the second, blew that marathon 3-1 game in the third and somehow didn’t get down. He was to shrug it off, win the fourth and then even hold a break point to go up 2-0 in the fifth. Had Djokovic converted either in the second or in the fifth, who knows what would have happened. No one ever will.
But what I know is what I saw and that is Alcaraz learning on the job that he can win Grand Slam titles without having to hit 380mph tomahawk forehands every point. His raw quickness and skills to just get the ball back will be enough in a lot of situations.
He’s basically transformed himself into Djokovic just with more firepower and the ability to end points at will at virtually any place on court. What’s scary is he just turned 20 and he’s already figured this out: There more than one way to win.
Yes, there are still some holes. Alcaraz clearly has some issues with nerves, experience and overhitting. But he just took a crash course and passed on how to reel it in, work the points and play defense. Again, he’s just 20.
And on the horizon, who’s going to take him down. Djokovic will still be a problem – he, too, will adjust – but Holger Rune, young Americans, young Canadians, Casper Ruud and the Russians don’t feel like consistent, long-term threats right now. I think Jannik Sinner, Matteo Berrettini – if he can get healthy – are two guys along with maybe Stefanos Tsitsipas.
But as Alcaraz evolves so too should the field. I just don’t think they can keep up. Vamos!
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