October 2, 2023

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This could be the Wimbledon final for the ages. Carlos Alcaraz is ready

“No time to get tired. No time to be afraid. I’ll go for it.”

Production on the long-awaited sequel to Gladiator has halted this week, after the Hollywood Actors Union called a strike over pay and terms. But if they need someone to fill in for any exciting senior speeches, they can contact Carlos Alcaraz.

But not on Sunday. So he’s busy. Alcaraz has reached his first Wimbledon final, and with only two left, the top seed and the man most people thought would be the best hope of preventing Novak Djokovic from winning his fifth consecutive title is actually the best hope of preventing Novak Djokovic from winning his title. Fifth in a row.

As a general rule, if you want to know how good an athlete is, you ask their opponents. So it was worth listening to Daniil Medvedev, shortly after losing 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to Alcaraz in the semi-finals on Center Court.

He said, “I didn’t play to the best of my ability, and against players like Carlos, Novak, Roger, you have to be at your absolute best.”

It was no coincidence that the Russian placed Alcaraz with Djokovic and Federer. He’s only 20, he’s only won one major tournament, and he’s only contested one final before that, but he already seems to belong in that company.

Medvedev didn’t play that bad in this match. He made 19 unforced errors in the three sets: For reference, on his way to beating Janik Siner in the semi-finals, Djokovic hit 21 errors.

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But Medvedev had absolutely no chance. The Carriers blasted him away with a series of whip forehands, slick volleys and a preposterous backhand that had to come with “don’t try this at home” warnings, to avoid breaking your wrist.

You knew it was going to be a very long afternoon for Medvedev in the second game, when Alcaraz came back so quickly that he basically got past him before finishing the follow-up off his serve.

Alcaraz has a lot more to his game than strength and relentless running, but there is something stifling about a player who is physically dominant. no break. no escape. Think you’re getting your foot in the door? Explosion. Sorry, your toes are now broken.

The center court crowd, eager for the match to continue a bit, got excited when Medvedev broke serve in the third set. Alcaraz broke in the next game. Ah, but then Medvedev broke again! Alcaraz broke in the next game.

On a few occasions, Medvedev would half-stop during points, apparently because he couldn’t understand Alcaraz’s reach, only to see him reach for the ball. You can’t blame him: this kid has no respect for the laws of physics. After a particularly violent serve, Medvedev shrugged in the direction of his coaches. On another occasion he said, “What shall I do?” What can he do? What can anyone do?

(Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

There is probably only one man who could have lived with Alcaraz like this. The good news for the rest of us is that there will be a Sunday, too.

It is a game of contradictions. Child vs. Veteran. Punch vs. Counterpunch. The guy who doesn’t make mistakes against the guy who shouldn’t should count on you to make her win.

The two men have met twice before: Alcaraz won the 2022 ATP Tour semi-final in Madrid, and Djokovic won the French Open semi-final this year when Alcaraz was stacked, in part because he said he was so nervous about the showdown. his opponent.

Djokovic won the last four tournaments here. The only real competition was against Roger Federer in 2019, an epic that literally went as far as it could go, as Djokovic won in a 12-12 fifth-set tiebreaker after Federer had two match points. Kevin Anderson showed grit in 2018 but was ultimately beaten. Matteo Berrettini and Nick Krygios have the opening set in 2021 and 2022 respectively, but did anyone really think either of them would stick it out?

It would be different if Alcaraz won the first set of this final. This will indicate real competition, and not just a delay in the inevitable.

“Everyone knows what a legend he is,” Alcaraz said, later referring to Djokovic as a “lion”. “It will be really, really hard. But I will fight. I will believe I can defeat him here.”

What will be particularly interesting is whether the Wimbledon fans really get behind Alcaraz. They were definitely behind him against Medvedev. How could they not be, when they are offered a display of skill, profound strength, and excitement? The crowd collectively got to its feet after a particularly exciting point in the second set. There were repeated shouts of “Vamus Carlito”. It felt like Wimbledon knew this was the next guy, someone who could not only beat Djokovic but become one of the sport’s dominant players for years to come.

And earlier in the day, it felt like Wimbledon was primed for someone other than Djokovic to win, after all these years of dominance.

This was evident from the general mood during the semi-final. At one point, Djokovic feigned tears, apparently in reaction to the notion that spectators weren’t quite behind him. “All love,” he said with a small smile on his face when asked about it next. “It’s all love. All love and acceptance.”

It’s always difficult to know the real motive when someone like Djokovic does something like that. Was he really upset? Was it a childish reaction to a relatively mild preference on behalf of the public? Was it a strange way of arousing himself? Do you mean anything at all?

Djokovic should know that the Wimbledon crowd, not a group known for their rabid partisan support, hasn’t suddenly taken a personal stand against him. He may not be as likable as Andy Murray, Federer, or Rafael Nadal, but really, all they probably want is a little variety.

They’ve seen Djokovic smash his way to titles before. They saw him fall on his back at the last point. They know that song.

In that sense, it’s a victim of its own dominance: you can collect all the trophies and set as many records as you want, but you have to accept that sometimes, people are going to want to see someone else succeed.

How would he react if the fans in the final made their preference for Alcaraz? Will you take him out of his game? Will you motivate him more?

That’s just one of the ways this finale will be for the ages. No time to play. No time to be afraid. Both men will go for it.

(Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)