Novak Djokovic defeated Carlos Alcaraz, 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) on Sunday to avenge his Wimbledon final loss and capture the Western & Southern Open title in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Playing in his first tournament on US soil since 2021, the 36-year-old Serb rallied from a set and a break down against the world number one, while saving a championship point to claim his third Cincinnati Open title and the 95th ATP Tour title of his career.
Following the three hour and 49-minute contest, which was the longest best-of-three sets final on the ATP Tour since 1990, Djokovic dropped to the ground for several seconds before getting up and tearing off his shirt.
“Definitely one of the toughest, most exciting matches I was ever a part of on any tournament,” an exhausted Djokovic said after the match. “It did feel like a grand slam final even more than that to be honest. Every match that we play against each other goes the distance.”
In what could be an early preview of the US Open final next month, Djokovic said that he hoped he could play the 20-year-old “in some weeks time in New York,” pausing momentarily before adding “for the crowd. I don’t know about me, it wouldn’t be nice.”
Alcaraz had the 23-time major champion on the ropes in the second set, leading 4-3, before a slew of miscues including four unforced errors gave Djokovic new life.
The second set would go into a tie break where the Serbian saved championship point to force the deciding third set after winning a 25-shot rally.
In the third set, Djokovic failed to capitalize on multiple championship points and the duo would go into another tiebreak, in which Djokovic would come out victorious.
“It’s amazing playing against you, sharing the court with you, learning from you,” Alcaraz told Djokovic during the trophy ceremony. “This match was really close, but I learned a lot from a champion like you. So congratulations to you and your team.”
Djokovic was playing in his first tournament on US soil since his US Open final loss against Daniil Medvedev in 2021. Djokovic is unvaccinated against Covid-19 and had previously been unable to enter the country for the past two years.
However, vaccine requirements for non-US travelers were lifted earlier this year, enabling Djokovic to compete in Cincinnati.
Up next for both players is the US Open, which begins on August 28 in New York. Djokovic will look to capture his 24th career singles grand slam title and surpass Margaret Court for the most all-time – men’s and women’s.