Alcaraz vs Djokovic: The Rivalry

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2023

Alcaraz vs Djokovic: The Rivalry

Relive the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and World No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz will meet on Saturday in a tantalising semi-final showdown at the Nitto ATP Finals. Since their first clash at the 2022 Mutua Madrid Open, the stars have shown their games and fighting spirits make for memorable matchups.

Before their Turin battle, looks back at all four of their previous Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings.

Madrid 2022, SF, Alcaraz d. Djokovic 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5)
The 2022 Mutua Madrid Open was where Alcaraz showed he was more than just a talented player on the rise. After a memorable win against countryman Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals, his tournament did not get any easier against top seed Djokovic.

In the pair’s first Lexus ATP Head2Head encounter, Djokovic received a full taste of what Alcaraz is capable of. The home favourite brought a selection of power and finesse to the Caja Magica.

Alcaraz hit 51 winners compared to 24 for Djokovic, and sent the Serbian scrambling with plenty of drop shots. When it came time to seal the match, the teen did it in style with a booming forehand winner to upset the World No. 1 after three hours and 36 minutes and become the first player to beat Nadal and Djokovic at the same clay-court tournament.

“I know that I played a really good game,” Alcaraz said. “For the rest of the season I think I am able to play against the best players in the world and beat them as well, so it gives me a lot of confidence.”

<a href=Carlos Alcaraz” />
Photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Roland Garros 2023, SF, Djokovic d. Alcaraz 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1
When the 2023 Roland Garros draw came out, all eyes were on the potential of a semi-final blockbuster between Djokovic and Alcaraz. After their scintillating clash in Madrid, would Alcaraz be able to replicate his level against the World No. 1 across five sets?

Djokovic seemed in command early, but Alcaraz worked hard to win the second set and when he did, a classic seemed in the works. But instead, the Spaniard began suffering from cramp early in the third set and was never able to physically recover.

Djokovic was left to polish off an ailing Alcaraz and he did so without issue, ending their first meeting at a major without tension.

“I told him at the net. He knows how young he is. He’s got plenty of time ahead of him, so he’s going to win this tournament I’m sure many many times,” Djokovic said. “He’s an unbelievable player, an incredible competitor and a very nice guy, so he deserves all the applause and all the support.”

Alcaraz was open about his feelings after the loss to the eventual champion. He said: “I’m disappointed in myself honestly, and in a match like this, coming to this match with great feelings, feeling great physically, and cramping at the end of the second set, beginning of the third set, it was really disappointing. But these kind of things happen, and I have to deal with that.”

Caros Alcaraz/<a href=Novak Djokovic” />
Photo: Getty Images
Wimbledon 2023, F, Alcaraz d. Djokovic 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4
Alcaraz did not need to wait long to take his shot at revenge against Djokovic. But entering the Wimbledon final, all eyes were on the Serbian’s chase for history. Just two years after coming within one match of winning the Grand Slam (capturing all four majors in the same season), Djokovic was again in good position, having triumphed at the Australian Open, Roland Garros, and being back in the Wimbledon final.

After the pair’s semi-final in Paris, Djokovic was the firm favourite at SW19. Not only had he demonstrated he was up for his younger rival’s challenge, but he was a seven-time Wimbledon champion, while Alcaraz had played just two grass-court tournaments in his career before 2023.

When the 23-time major winner stormed through the opening set, he appeared well on his way to extending his winning streak at the event to 35. Djokovic earned set point at 6/5 in the second-set tie-break but missed a neutral backhand into the net, changing the course of the match and history.

Alcaraz sprang to life, eventually winning a four-hour, 42-minute battle to earn his second major title.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” Alcaraz said. “As I said before, of course it’s great to win, but even if I had lost, I would be really proud of myself with this amazing run. Making history in this beautiful tournament, playing a final against a legend of our sport.”

Cincinnati 2023, F, Djokovic d. Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4)
Fresh off a classic Wimbledon final, fans were once again in for a treat in the final of the Western & Southern Open, the pair’s first match on hard court.

Just a few months after Alcaraz was physically out of sorts at Roland Garros, it was Djokovic who did not look like himself in the Cincinnati final. Alcaraz firmly controlled the match up a set and a break as he looked to dial up his charge for ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone.

Had Alcaraz put together two service holds from 4-3 in the second set, the match might have been forgettable. But instead, he gave his opponent an opening and Djokovic turned their clash into a classic. He saved championship point at 5/6 in the second-set tie-break to force a thrilling decider.

Both men raised their levels and Alcaraz showed resolve of his own to break back when Djokovic served for the championship in the third set. Ultimately it was the 36-year-old who emerged victorious after three hours and 49 minutes, the longest best-of-three final in ATP Tour history (since 1990).

“Just overall, one of the toughest and most exciting matches I was ever part of and these are the kinds of moments and matches that I continue to work for day in day out,” Djokovic said. “I was never in doubt that I can deliver the ‘A’ game when it mattered the most and [I am] just thrilled.”

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