After a deflating match-up at the French Open, Wimbledon finally gave Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, 36, and Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, 20, the contest that tennis fans had been waiting for. The victor? Alcaraz, after a thrilling four-and-a-half-hour match that saw him take the title 1-6, 7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.
Going into today’s epic tête-à-tête—the 35th Grand Slam final of his career and second of Alcaraz’s—Djokovic had lost just two sets this tournament and five at Slams this year. A win would have made him the third man in the Open Era to win five consecutive titles at the All England Club (after Björn Borg and Roger Federer); Djokovic was also bidding to tie Margaret Court for the most singles titles ever, at 24, and Federer for the most championships at Wimbledon, at eight. His loss against Alcaraz marked his first at Wimbledon since his final against Andy Murray in 2013.
Among those in the stands to watch the action were Murray, Brad Pitt, Jonathan Bailey, Ariana Grande, Andrew Garfield, Zawe Ashton, Tom Hiddleston, Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Hugh Jackman, Deborra-Lee Furness, King Felipe VI of Spain, and members of Britain’s royal family: the Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales, Prince George, and Princess Charlotte (in a cute pair of pink sunglasses).
The weather in London was cloudy and mild, with enough wind to move the ball a little, but not enough to close the roof over Centre Court (as was necessary during yesterday’s women’s final). Although some rain earlier in the day made the grass a bit slippery—both players took a few sliding falls—the quality of play was sky-high after a wobbly first set, which saw Djokovic flatten Alcaraz 6-1.
In the second set, the Spaniard held his first service game and won an early break. Djokovic then broke back, and after a 29-shot rally in the fourth game he held, tying things up 2-2. This electric back-and-forth continued until the players reached a tiebreak, which Alcaraz won 8-6, finally ending an 85-minute set.
The third set was a big one for Alcaraz: After breaking Djokovic’s opening service game, he held for a 2-0 lead. Djokovic got on the board in the third, after which Alcaraz held again. Then came a grueling, nearly 27-minute fifth game, which gave Alcaraz another break. He ended up winning the set 6-1, erasing any concern that we were in for a repeat of his tense, cramp-y performance in Paris.
Djokovic came back (quite literally) swinging in the fourth set, eking out a 6-3 win despite looking fairly run down. But the fifth set offered an astonishing showcase for Alcaraz, who seemed utterly cool as he finally served for the championship—and won.
Although he clearly took the loss hard, pausing to weep as he addressed his box, Djokovic was generous in his praise of Alcaraz as he accepted the runner-up plate from the Princess of Wales. “I thought I’d have trouble with you on hard courts and on clay, but not on grass,” Djokovic told his opponent with a laugh.
Alcaraz, meanwhile, acknowledged just how special it was to win a major against “a legend of our sport.”
“It’s a dream come true for me,” he said, gripping the Gentlemen’s Singles Trophy. “It’s great to win, but even if I’d lost I would be really proud of myself.” With any hope, we’ll see the two face off again in New York later this summer, as Alcaraz vies to defend his title at the US Open.
Originally published in Vogue.com