Cincinnati | Djokovic lifts trophy for a third time – just!

The dream final more than lived up to expectations and has provided the US Open, which starts in a week’s time, with the best publicity boost ever as the two will be drawn to meet in their final where they hope this epic can be replicated!

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. Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic, on this occasion, emerged the 5-7 7-6(7) 7-6(4) victor over Carlos Alcaraz after an extraordinary three hour, 49-minute battle to claim his third Cincinnati Masters title and his 39th at ATP 1000 level.

While it was certainly a lung-busting affair with Djokovic facing Alcaraz on his return to the US for the first time in two years and having to deal with him in searing temperatures having played all his previous matches in the evening slot, the incentive to get the better of his young Spanish rival was a major driving factor for he looked down-and-out after about 90-minutes of play.

The Serb did pull ahead first breaking Alcaraz for 4-2 but the youngster came right back and then broke Djokovic for a second time at 5-5 to serve it out in the next.

Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic remain the best of friends!

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

A refreshing visit to the locker room didn’t help Djokovic for on his return, Alcaraz quickly snatched a 2-1 lead but had to fend off break back points in the next game and eventually pulled ahead 4-2.

But with the finish line beckoning, Alcaraz faltered playing a loose game to allow Djokovic back into the match and with the cooling effect of an evening drawing in, Djokovic’s game slowly revitalised and began to find its mark to move the 20-year-old around the court more, saving match point in the process and forcing it into second set tie-break, and claiming it to level the match.

The decider saw Djokovic start the stronger and he had an early chance to go ahead in the fifth, succeeding in the seventh but while leading 5-4, he missed two match points as Alcaraz pressed, to finally break back in the next game, the longest of the match, at his fourth attempt.

With the crowd urging the pair on at 5-all, another nervy game followed with Djokovic failing to convert one of the four break points he held.

Djokovic then held for another tiebreaker which he claimed taking advantage of the fact that Alcaraz was starting to wilt physically, and not surprisingly considering the time he had spent on court leading up to the final (11 hours and 40-minutes).

“Crazy. Honestly, I don’t know what else I can say. Tough to describe. Definitely one of the toughest matches I’ve ever played in my life, regardless (of) what tournament, what category, what level, what player. It’s unbelievable,” Djokovic exclaimed on court. “From the beginning ’til the end we’ve both been through so much, so many ups and downs, highs and lows, incredible points, poor games, heat strokes, coming back.

“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. I was never in doubt that I can deliver the ‘A’ game when it mattered the most and just thrilled.”

Djokovic and Alcaraz are now tied 2-2 with all four matches going the distance.

“You just have to put your hats down to a guy like that, who plays so maturely, handles the pressure so well for a 20-year-old,” Djokovic added. “We cannot forget how young he is. That’s something that is so impressive about him. The feeling that I have on the court reminds me a little bit when I was facing Nadal when we were at our prime of our careers. Each point is a hustle. Each point is a battle.

“Amazing to be able to experience that with him on the court. It just keeps getting better for the fans. For us, I don’t know if we are enjoying it so much. It’s definitely a challenge that we both need to embrace and accept because that’s what’s required from both of us in order to win big titles.”

Alcaraz was seeking a fifth Masters title with this one being his first loss in a Masters final, and no doubt he will be rueing missing that match point in the second set.

”It’s amazing playing against you, sharing the court with you, learning from you,” Alcaraz responded on court. “This match was really close, but I learned a lot from a champion like you. So congratulations to you and your team.”

As champion of Cincinnati, the last word should be left to him.

“Hopefully we can play in some weeks’ time in New York,” Djokovic said. “That would be nice for the crowd, (though) I don’t know about me!”

Novak Djokovic collapses with the clock showing the time of the final

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)



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