Alcaraz downs Djokovic in thriller to reach Madrid final
Carlos Alcaraz believes the sky is the limit after becoming the first player to beat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the same tournament on clay as he stormed into the Madrid Open final on Saturday.
The 19-year-old Spaniard reached his second ATP Masters final in five weeks and claimed his first win over a reigning world number one, overcoming Djokovic 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) in front of a sell-out home crowd at the Caja Magica.
Alcaraz has a tour-leading seven wins against top-10 players this season. He enters Sunday’s final against defending champion Alexander Zverev carrying a nine-match winning streak, having triumphed in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago.
He is the youngest player to beat a world number one in 17 years.
Asked if he sees a limit to what he can achieve, Alcaraz said: “I don’t think so. Tomorrow I will go for the final as I did in Miami. I’m really happy to be able to play a second Masters 1000 final.”
“I would say that I feel ready to compete against them (the top players) in every single tournament, in every single surface,” added the Miami champion.
Zverev moved into his third Madrid final with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win against Greek world number five Stefanos Tsitsipas, in a clash that finished at 1:06 am local time (2306 GMT Saturday).
The German second seed, a champion in the Spanish capital in 2018 and 2021, extended his Madrid winning streak to nine consecutive matches. Zverev has won both of his previous meetings against Alcaraz.
A calm and collected Alcaraz kicked off the match against Djokovic with a service break, thanks to a well-timed cross-court backhand passing shot. He was soon up 3-1 on the top seed.
Djokovic, who turns 35 this month, struck back to draw level at 4-4 as the set went to a tie-break.
A fired-up Djokovic sped to a 5-1 advantage and soon got his hands on four set points.
Alcaraz saved the first with an aggressive return and another with an ace. The Spaniard save a third with a spot-on drop shot to narrow his deficit to 5-6 but Djokovic closed out the set on his fourth opportunity after 62 minutes.
The players were neck and neck in the second set, until Alcaraz upped the ante in game 12, winning key battles at the net and perfectly using his drop shot when he needed to.
The Murcia native claimed a break and the set with a sensational get, running down a Djokovic drop shot and hitting a winner from outside the doubles alley.
Djokovic cuts hand
Djokovic staved off three break points on his serve in game four of the decider, digging deep for a 2-2 hold.
The world number one fell during the next game and needed some medical attention for a wound on his right hand. Two more break points came and went for Alcaraz on his opponent’s serve as Djokovic battled to hold for 3-3.
It was Djokovic’s turn to put pressure on the Alcaraz serve, but the seventh seed successfully side-stepped a break point to hold in game seven.
The crowd went wild as Alcaraz blasted a forehand winner for his first match point. Djokovic responded with a steely ace and dug deep to level at 5-5.
It all came down to a final-set tie-break and the Caja Magica was shaking with “si se puede” (‘Yes you can’) chants. Alcaraz drew first blood, opening up a 4-2 gap.
Djokovic saved a second match point for 5-6 but Alcaraz was third time lucky, claiming a statement three-hour 35-minute victory with another forehand winner — his 35th of the match.
Djokovic converted just one of six break points but still walked away from Madrid with a positive outlook on his game.
“He held his nerves very well. For somebody of his age to play so maturely and courageously is impressive. He deserved to win,” said the Serb of Alcaraz.
“I had a lot of chances, and it was a fantastic match. Great battle. But I am definitely disappointed with not being able to use my chances.
“I definitely played very good tennis — the best that I have played this year.”