“I know my opponents want to get a scalp; they want to get a win. But it ain’t happening, still,” crowed Novak Djokovic after his quarterfinal win over No. 7 Andrey Rublev. The last of the iconic “Big Three,” Djokovic lacked the modesty of Rafael Nadal or the subtlety of Roger Federer. For years, he played third fiddle to his archrivals in both Grand Slam titles and popularity. Now he led them all with a record 23 majors and was halfway to a rare calendar-year Grand Slam. Closing in on his eighth Wimbledon crown, the intense Serb oozed confidence.
If Djokovic was an immovable object, Carlos Alcaraz was an irresistible force. Alcaraz took the tennis world by storm last year as the youngest No. 1 in tennis history. At age 19, Alcaraz won the US Open. A month ago, he displayed his rapid progress and stunning prowess on grass by capturing Queens, only his third tournament on the slick surface.
After outclassing Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the Wimbledon semifinals to set up the eagerly anticipated “dream final,” the Spaniard welcomed the challenge. “My dream is to be here, and even better, to play Novak.” Alcaraz also expressed plenty of confidence. “I will believe in myself; I will believe that I can beat him here.”
In the Roland Garros semifinals, the kid battled the legend evenly for two sets before full-body cramps caused by nerves and the heat debilitated him. A fast learner, Carlos started doing mental exercises prescribed by his sports psychologist to relax. It paid off. En route to the Wimbledon final, Alcaraz dropped only two sets—to No. 25 Nicolas Jarry and 2021 finalist Matteo Berrettini—before outplaying another 20-year-old comer, No. 6 Holger Rune, in a 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-4 quarterfinal.
The 36-year-old Djokovic reached his record 35th major final by defeating another rising star, 21-year-old Jannik Sinner. Experience and versatility trumped youth and brute power, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4). Playing the big points as only he can, Novak saved all six break points and extended his tiebreaker winner streak at majors to 15, a record. “36 is the new 26,” said the exhilarated Djokovic. “I feel good. I feel a lot of motivation.”
A victory in the Wimbledon final would break Djokovic’s Grand Slam tie with Serena Williams and equal Margaret Court’s record of 24. An eighth Wimbledon would match Federer’s record and, of course, keep alive his bid for a Grand Slam—last achieved in 1969 by Rod Laver—with the final leg at the US Open.
“It’s going to be a great challenge, the greatest challenge that I could have at the moment from any angle really: physical, mental, emotional,” said Djokovic. “He’s very motivated. He’s young. He’s hungry. I’m hungry, too, so let’s have a feast.”
The oddsmakers made Djokovic a solid 1-2 favourite, but IBM Watson favoured Alcaraz 55% to 45%. John McEnroe, the ESPN analyst who captured three Wimbledon titles in the 1980s, said, “If he brings his ‘A’ game, he can beat Djokovic.”
But what exactly was Alcaraz’s ‘A’ game on grass? Could he fine-tune his variety as he did with artistry against Medvedev, or would he impulsively—and compulsively—show off his sometimes high-risk, low-percentage, every-shot-in-the-book game?
Extreme shot-makers just want to have fun. And ever since Alcaraz started living and training at the Equelite Sport Academy in southeastern Spain at age 15, he’s enjoyed conjuring up jaw-dropping shots. “Every time I went to the court, I knew he’d do something I’d never seen in my life,” Antonio Martínez Cascales, the academy’s founder, told The Times (UK). Cascales installed cameras over each court to capture Carlos’s dazzling repertoire. “It was clear he was special. He thought differently than the other players [his age], but even the best magicians need to practise their tricks.”
An estimated 1.2 billion sports fans around the world watched this enthralling Battle of the Generations. The age gap of 15 years and 348 days was the largest since the 1974 final, when the rambunctious Jimmy Connors overwhelmed the ageing Ken Rosewall.
Before the final, Alcaraz called it “the greatest day of my life.” But it didn’t start off auspiciously. Djokovic broke his serve twice, racing ahead 4-0. “He looks lost out there,” said John McEnroe. Minutes later, the sinewy Serb took the opening set, 6-1.
The precocious Spaniard—who could rally against a wall when he was four—tempered his go-for-broke game and did more rallying in the second set. The tactic quickly paid off, eliciting enough errors from Djokovic to earn a service break for a 2-0 lead. The Serb regained momentum with a break in the next game, but the battle was joined.
At 3-all, Alcaraz attacked ferociously and produced a highlight reel game—three winners followed by an ace to climax it. The second and most entertaining point—filled with sensational “Anything you can do, I can do better” shots—ended with Carlos’s backhand volley winner.
Six games later, it was tiebreaker time. And nobody in tennis history has played them better than Djokovic. He’d won a record 15 straight at majors, including six straight at the Big W. The Serb streaked ahead 3-0, but the Spaniard rebounded with a forehand winner and a disguised drop shot winner to lead 5-4. Djokovic reached set point, at 6-5, with a backhand passing shot, ending a 17-shot exchange.
Shockingly, the far more experienced Djokovic let his opponent off the hook with two unforced errors on the backhand, normally a rock-solid shot. Alcaraz then grabbed the critical tiebreaker with a backhand serve return down the line that caught Djokovic flat-footed.
The defending champion, who lost his serve only three times in six previous matches at The Championships, surrendered it three times in the 6-1 third set. Alcaraz is most often compared to Federer stylistically, but he’s most similar to fellow Spaniard Nadal competitively. Serving at 1-3, Djokovic had eight game points and Alcaraz seven break points in a fluctuating, 27-minute game that had 13 deuces. Finally, the relentless Alcaraz wrapped up the marathon game when he struck a crosscourt backhand passing shot winner, and Djokovic ended a long rally with a forehand error. Like Federer, Alcaraz is fast becoming a fan favourite, and spectators chanted “Carlos! Carlos!”
After losing the third set 6-1, Djokovic took a bathroom break, as he often does to regroup when he’s in trouble. While he looked in the mirror and plotted tactics while talking to himself, the relaxed Alcaraz strolled on the court, occasionally bouncing a ball on the edge of his racket.
In the fourth set, the momentum shifted. After dumping a forehand half volley in the net to get broken and fall behind 3-2, Carlos whacked his tennis bag in frustration during the changeover.
Court position can matter as much as shot power. The Serb hit the ball from inside the baseline 31% of the time during the first three sets. Djokovic increased that to 46%, enabling him to dictate rallies and win the fourth set, 6-3. Djokovic, seething at hecklers in the crowd, celebrated by blowing a sarcastic kiss to the crowd.
Both competitors boasted superb career records in five-set matches—Djokovic 37-10, including 10-1 at Wimbledon, and Alcaraz 8-1.
With Djokovic serving at 1-all in the deciding set, ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe said, “Someone is going to have to win this, take this, because that’s how good it is.”
Seizing the moment, Alcaraz belted a backhand winner for love-15 and wrong-footed Djokovic with a perfect forehand volley for 15-30. Alcaraz partisans chanted “Carlos! Carlos!” while Djokovic fans countered with “Novak! Novak!”
On break point, the Spaniard whacked a backhand passing shot down the line to take a 2-1 lead. Pleased with his shot selection and execution, he pointed to his head. Djokovic, exasperated, smashed his racket on the wooden net post and received a code violation from chair umpire Fergus Murphy.
Serving for his second Grand Slam title at 5-4, Alcaraz showcased many of the weapons in his vast arsenal. A forehand lob winner made the score 15-all, an acrobatic backhand volley 30-15, and an unreturnable, 130-mph serve 40-30 and the championship point. When Alcaraz boldly rushed the net, Djokovic’s forehand pass landed in the net.
Game, set, match, and Wimbledon title, Alcaraz 1-6, 7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.
Alcaraz became the youngest Wimbledon men’s champion since 18-year-old Boris Becker in 1986. Like Becker, he epitomised fearless aggression and rugged athleticism, pounding 18 winners—versus just three for Djokovic—in the deciding set.
Not since Lleyton Hewitt — in 2002 —had anyone except the “Big Four” of Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, and Andy Murray won The Championships.
“It’s a dream come true for me. It’s incredible,” Alcaraz told the Centre Court crowd during the awards ceremony. “ Paying tribute to Djokovic, he said, “You inspired me a lot. I started tennis watching you.”
Djokovic, always gracious in defeat, returned the compliments. “At the end of the match, when you had to serve it out, you came up with some big serves and some big plays. You deserve it. I thought I would have trouble with you only on clay and hard courts, not on grass. But that’s not the case now. It’s amazing the way you adapted to this surface.”
With his dreams shattered, Djokovic said, “This is a tough one to swallow when you’re so close. I lost to a better player and have to move on, hopefully stronger.”
Fighting off tears, he looked at his family and team in the player’s box and said, “It’s nice to see my son smiling.” The 15,000 spectators cheered loudly. “I love you. I give you a big hug.”
The consensus among tennis experts is that the extraordinarily talented and versatile Alcaraz will wind up with double-digit Grand Slam titles. Djokovic believes the sui generis Spaniard has everything it takes to achieve that.
“I think people have been talking in the past 12 months or so about his game consisting of certain elements from Roger, Rafa, and myself. I would agree with that,” Djokovic said. “I think he’s got basically the best of all three worlds. He’s got this Spanish bull mentality of competitiveness, fighting spirit, and incredible defence. I haven’t played a player like him ever, to be honest. Roger and Rafa have their own strengths and weaknesses. Carlos is a very complete player. Amazing adapting capabilities that I think are a key for longevity and for a successful career on all surfaces.”
Unseeded Marketa Vondrousova stuns Ons Jabeur
“It’s the occasion, sometimes more than the opponent, that gets you nervous” — All-time tennis great Chris Evert.
Pressure is a privilege, as Billie Jean King often says, but it can also be a cruel destroyer. In sports, this most pervasive intangible has inspired majestic performances from superstars who embrace it. But pressure has also paralysed lesser tennis players, especially when the stakes are highest on the grandest stage of all — Centre Court in the Wimbledon final.
The most famous “choke” in women’s tennis history happened in the 1993 Wimbledon final when Jana Novotna blew a 4-1 lead in the deciding set with a flurry of unforced errors and lost to all-time great Steffi Graf. In the unforgettably poignant trophy ceremony, the Dutchess of Kent consoled Novotna as she cried on her shoulder.
Nerves are unpredictable and can strike at any time in a match. This time, Ons Jabeur, the No. 6 seed and solid favourite, led unseeded Marketa Vondrousova 4-2 in the opening set after breaking serve at love. Just when the 29-year-old Tunisian appeared likely to take the set, she crumbled. Vondrousova grabbed 16 of the last 18 points. Not even the loud cheers of the partisan 15,000-capacity crowd could save the jittery, error-prone Jabeur.
After Vondrousova finished her 6-4, 6-4 victory with a lunging backhand volley winner for her first Grand Slam title, the crestfallen Jabeur revealed her feelings. “Honestly, I felt a lot of pressure and stress [before the final]. The more good results I have, the more pressure I feel.”
Indeed, Jabeur’s Wimbledon results before the final were nothing short of terrific as she surmounted a brutal draw. Blending power with deceptive drop shots and creative angles, she defeated 2019 U.S. Open titlist Bianca Andreescu and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova. Then, in what she called her “revenge tour,” she took out two more Grand Slam champions.
The 5’6” sorceress with a smile — she’s known as “The Minister of Happiness” in Tunisia — showed her killer instinct. Avenging her loss to heavy-hitting Elena Rybakina in the Big W final a year ago, Jabeur displayed her usual bag of tricks but also belted 35 winners to overcome the 6’ Kazakhstani 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1, taking eight of the last 10 points with bold shot-making. Jabeur displayed her confidence with this declaration: “If you want to hit hard, I’m here to hit as fast as I can.”
With more revenge on her mind, Jabeur took on Aryna Sabalenka in a semifinal featuring contrasting styles. The Belarusian slugger whipped Jabeurin in the Wimbledon quarterfinals two years ago and at the 2022 WTA Finals. Sabalenka’s stentorian screams and grunts proved almost as intimidating to opponents as her thunderous serves and groundstrokes.
After taking the opening set tiebreaker 7-5, Sabalenka surged to a 4-2 lead in the second set, taking 10 straight points. Afterwards, Jabeur recalled her thoughts when she was on the verge of defeat. “I was like, ‘Honestly, I’m not going to give a shit, I’m just going to go in and hit my return.’ For me, it was just one game. I just wanted to try to break her [serve].”
Even though Sabalenka won the Australian Open in January for her first Grand Slam title, she had a history of losing close matches, the most recent being when she led Karolina Muchova 7-6, 5-2 in the French Open semis. A similar fate would befall the Belarusian again.
Jabeur twice broke serve, the second coming on a spectacular backhand serve return winner, to seize the second set, 6-4. “Sometimes momentum can be stronger than skill,” said ESPN analyst Chris Evert.
Down 5-2 in the deciding set, Sabalenka managed to stave off two match points, but Jabeur closed out the 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory with a perfectly placed, 92-mph ace.
Jabeur had yet another score to settle in the final. Although she split six career matches with Vondrousova, the 24-year-old Czech won their two matches this year at the Australian Open and Indian Wells.
“She’s the next Martina [Navratilova],” said her coach when he first discovered then-seven-year-old Vondrousova’s athletic talent. At 15, she moved from her small hometown of Sokolov to train in Prague. A former junior world No. 1, Vondrousova broke through at the 2019 French Open. The unseeded 19-year-old upset four seeds before Ashleigh Barty outclassed her in the 6-1, 6-3 final. She proved that clay success was no fluke by winning a silver medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics on hard courts.
Last year, two wrist surgeries sidelined Vondrousovafor six months, forcing the pensive Czech to attend Wimbledon in a cast. “You never know if you can be at that level again.”
Vondrousova certainly didn’t have any reason to think she would produce the tournament of her life at Wimbledon. Neither did the oddsmakers, who made Vondrousova an 80-1 longshot . After all, she’d won just four main-draw matches on grass in her pro career before this stunning fortnight. In stark contrast, Jabeur led the WTA Tour with 21 grass-court wins since 2021.
Although world No. 1 Iga Swiatek captured her fourth major title five weeks earlier at Roland Garros, parity continues on the WTA Tour. Vondrousova became the 17th different winner at the past 26 majors and the seventh different winner at Wimbledon since Serena Williams prevailed in 2015–16.
If Vondrousova’s tour de force didn’t quite equal wild card Emma Raducanu’s fairytale 2021 U.S. Open triumph in shock value, it was far more impressive. She became the first woman in the Open Era to beat five seeds, a feat even more remarkable because she also defeated former No. 4 Elina Svitolina.
Her historic run started with wins over two formidable power hitters — 6-3, 6-3 against No. 12 Veronika and 6-1, 7-5 versus No. 20 Donna Vekic. Vondrosouva then overcame fellow Czech and 32nd seed Marie Bouzkova, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.
World No. 4 Jessica Pegula presented a different stylistic challenge for Vondrousova. The late-blooming, 28-year-old American boasts rock-solid strokes, but without a huge weapon, she lost all five previous Grand Slam quarterfinals and all three matches against elite players at the 2022 WTA Finals.
In the third set, Pegula came within five points of victory when nerves got the better of her, while Vondrousova grew more aggressive. “Jessica is going to have nightmares about the 4-1 break-point shot when she just missed a backhand long,” said Tennis Channel analyst Lindsay Davenport. “That completely changed the momentum.” Vondrosouva reeled off the last five games, finishing off the last one at love with forehand and volley winners.
In the feel-good story of this anything-can-happen fortnight, Svitolina, just nine months after giving birth to daughter Skai, ambushed four Grand Slam champions. Venus Williams, 26 years after her debut at Wimbledon, went down 6-4, 6-3; then 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin 7-6 (3), 6-2; and two-time Australian titlist Victoria Azarenka in a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11-9) marathon, finishing the super-close tiebreaker with an overhead winner and an ace. When Svitolina didn’t shake hands with Azarenka of Belarus — following the practice of other Ukraine players after a match against a Russian or Belarusian — Centre Court spectators booed Azarenka as she exited.
Svitolina called winning the Battle of the Moms “the second biggest moment of my life after giving birth to my daughter.” But the best was yet to come.
Swiatek, her quarterfinal opponent, was the pre-tournament favourite despite never getting past the round of 16 in three previous appearances. The Pole escaped two match points by edging 14th-seeded Bencic 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-3. “Champions rise to the occasion,” said ESPN analyst Darren Cahill.
But Swiatek, whose Western forehand misfired repeatedly on the low-bouncing grass, could not escape the inspired Svitolina, as she displayed more power and variety than ever. The wild card upset the No. 1-ranked player 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-2. With a look of disbelief, relief, and joy, Svitolina received a standing ovation from the Centre Court crowd.
“Having a child made me a different person, and I look at everything differently,” said Svitolina, whose husband Gael Monfils cared for Skae in their Switzerland home.
Her Cinderella run ended when Vondrousova stopped her 6-3, 6-3 in a lacklustre semifinal. Not even spectator cries of “We love you, Elina” could ignite a comeback, Svitolina appeared emotionally drained from her exciting wins and her long-term anxiety over her Ukrainian compatriots, whose suffering she often talked about since the Russian invasion.
If Swiatek was flat, Vondrousova was superb during her first career appearance on Centre Court. “She has the complete game. She does everything really well,” praised ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez. “Her leftiness complicates things for her opponents. She has variety — a great drop shot, heavy forehand topspin, a flat backhand; she can come in [to the net], and she defends well. It’s hard to get the ball by her. She has a combination of so many skills that throws her opponents off.”
That combination of attributes proved more than enough to vanquish Jabeur in the final. The pressure was immense for both players to win their first Wimbledon and maiden Grand Slam titles. Jabeur led 4-2 in the first set and 3-1 in the second set, only to give away both leads with a slew of unforced errors. She totalled 31 for the final, while the more consistent Czech, who had only 13 unforced errors, capitalised by converting six of seven break-point chances.
During the awards ceremony, the surprise champion couldn’t stop smiling, while the Minister of Happiness looked devastated by her third straight defeat in a major final. Weeping as she raised the runner-up plate, Jabeur said, “God, this is very tough. I think this is the most painful loss of my career.” Then, like a true competitor, she added, “I come back one day, and I win this tournament.”
The determined Tunisian can draw inspiration from Evert, who lost her first three major finals before capturing 18, and Kim Clijsters, who dropped her first four. Clijsters eventually won four Grand Slam titles. The former Belgian star consoled Jabeur afterwards in the locker room, telling her that she, too, would win a Slam someday.
“I never thought I could win Wimbledon,” said Vondrousova, who became the first unseeded ladies’ champion at Wimbledon since 1927. “After everything I’ve been through, it’s been a crazy journey.”
One of the many tattoos adorning Vondrousova’s body says, “No rain, no flowers.” She plans to add another tattoo to celebrate her title. It’s part of a pre-tournament bet with her coach, Jan Mertl, that they both have to get a tattoo if she succeeds at Wimbledon. “I think he’s scared,” Vondrousova told ESPN with a laugh.
As for her tattoo, either “SW19,” Wimbledon’s postcode, or “July 16,” the first anniversary of her marriage to Stepan Simek, would be fitting.
- Mohammad Yousuf appointed Pakistan junior team head coach
- England’s Lauren James strikes hat-trick in Chelsea’s 5-1 WSL win over Liverpool
- FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers points table LIVE: CAF standings, South Africa tops Group C, Salah hat-trick helps Egypt lead Group A
- ATP Finals 2023: Sinner beats Medvedev, becomes first Italian man to reach summit clash at year-end championships
- EURO 2024 qualifiers points table LIVE: Wales second in Group D, Ronaldo helps Portugal top Group J