Carlos Alcaraz v Novak Djokovic: ATP Finals semi-final – live | ATP Finals
Djokovic* 6-3 3-1 Alcaraz
Unflustered and near-faultless, Djokovic is melting his man now. Even after Alcaraz steals a 0-15 lead, the world No 1 just keeps calm and forces the mistake.
Djokovic 6-3 2-1 Alcaraz*
Alcaraz is battling himself now. He dumps a simple backhand volley into the net to give Djokovic a break point but follows up with an ace to earn deuce. There is a moment of controversy as Alcaraz correctly challenges a line call with Djokovic well in the point, the Spaniard aces in the replay, but another sloppy volley and an overly agressive forehand costs him the game. Just the kind of early break that Alcaraz could ill afford, again Djokovic showing himself a master of the mental game.
Djokovic* 6-3 1-1 Alcaraz
One sloppy miss at the net from Djokovic aside, it’s another routine hold.
Djokovic 6-3 0-1 Alcaraz*
Good response from Alcaraz after the way he crumbled at the end of the first. He has Djokovic scampering around the court again, then, at 30-0, the Spaniard hits a miraculous forehand to leave his opponent splayed on the court. Another ace seals it.
All of a sudden Djokovic is in total control. Alcaraz looks bewildered at his box as Djokovic sails through a love service game. The way Djokovic grew into the set to seize control at the key moment was abolutely masterful.
Djokovic 5-3 Alcaraz*
Another ace to start for Alcaraz, his fifth, but Djokovic has his first sniff of a break with some decent returning on his forehand side to go up 15-30. A loose backhand from Alcaraz and Djokovic has what he wants… two break points. One is saved on a second serve but when Alacarz dumps a backhand down the line into the net the jig is up. Djokovic will now serve for the first set.
Djokovic* 4-3 Alcaraz
No doubt Djokovic is working harder for points on serve, but so far he seems unflustered. In the long rallies the world No 1 is playing well inside the baseline and goading Alcaraz into making risky big shots. Another mistake when lining up a forehand winner at the net denies Djokovic a perfect service game, but he wastes little time closing it out at 40-15.
Djokovic 3-3 Alcaraz*
The Alcaraz first serve has been immaculate so far, only missed in three service ames. The trajectory is very flat over the net to give Djokovic little chance to claw his way into points on the return.
Djokovic* 3-2 Alcaraz
Alcaraz gets to 0-30 quickly with some fine returning, but Djokovic responds with a couple of quirky serves to the body. Alcaraz is making the running but just when his opponent looks on the ropes at 30-30 Djokovic pins the Spaniard at the net with an arrowed backhand. Fist pumps from Djokovic as he triumphs in an epic rally at deuce, but on the very next point he blazes an easy winner long. Alcaraz really should have earned another break point when he has Djokovic on the ropes but the Serb puts up some incredible defence and earns a hard-fought game with strong first serve.
Djokovic 2-2 Alcaraz*
Lovely forehand drop shot from Alcaraz to go 15-0 up, from there it’s a pretty straightforward service game with two aces. Interestingly, Djokovic is daring Alcaraz to keep hitting his favoured forehand and it is tactic that has won him a couple of cheap points. It is a dangerous game of risk and reward because if Alcaraz gets that going even Djokovic might be in trouble.
Djokovic* 2-1 Alcaraz
This time Djokovic does not give his opponent much of a sniff.
Djokovic 1-1 Alcaraz*
Less trouble for Alcaraz on his first serve, he races to 40-0 before Djokovic earns a couple of free points as the ball goes long, but the young Spaniard closes out with a powerful forehand.
Djokovic* 1-0 Alcaraz
Just a tasty five-minute opening salvo to start then. Alcaraz shows he has come to play, big backhand is followed up with a neat close-out volley at the net. Next up, the Spaniard fires a forehand winner to go 0-30. Big serve from Djokovic, 15-30. Another piercing backhand from Alcaraz sets up two break points. One is saved thanks to a net cord bounce then Alcaraz slumps a forehand into the net to level at deuce. Two smart serves from Djokovic earns him the first game.
It will be Djokovic to serve first.
The players are nearly done with the warmups. Action underway shortly.
Simon McMahon is a man after my own heart:
Djokovic is a strange one. He’s good at tennis, of that there’s no doubt. But not that likeable, for obvious reasons. A less well liked GOAT in any sport would be hard to find, I think. Federer too, exceptional talent, but, well, just a bit too good, if you get my drift. Nadal, a genius on clay, but well, meh. Which leaves Andy Murray, who has everything you want from a major international tennis star, except maybe the Grand Slam titles. But I’d take him any time over the other three. He’s the Lendl to their Connors, Borg and McEnroe. And I love him for it.
Murray learned how to be loved in a way unlike anyone else. Djokovic, Nadal and Federer (although to a lesser context) are liked for being great, Murray became liked for being himself.
Right, the players are making their way on to court. More like a boxing ring walk or a gladiator entry than your usual tennis offering. I’ve been to this event when it was in London and it does work well in the venue.
Here’s a reminder of when these two last met. Buy the hype on this one, trust me:
We have an email from Krishnamoorthy:
After Roger Federer retired and Rafael Nadal sort of went into oblivion, I have become a supporter of whoever plays against Djokovic. I am sure I am not alone.
You are not, Krishnamoorthy, but be prepared for Djokohive to give just as good they get.
When I said Alcaraz had not been in the best form, that is of course relative. He has still been producing some incredible tennis this week. This, for example…
With the utmost respect to home favourite Jannik Sinner this is the final, right? Even if Sinner beats the winner, this is pretty much the match to decide the title of best men’s tennis player for 2023. Novak Djokovic has won three of the four grand slams, Carlos Alcaraz beat the world No 1 to claim the other. The 36-year-old Serb has seen off the young phenom in their two other meetings this year. Djokovic outmatched Alcaraz in Paris en route to the French Open title and then clawed his way to victory in the final of the Cincinnati Masters in a classic.
They have both lost already at this ATP Finals, which is why this meeting is at the last four stage and not for the overall crown. Sinner’s win over Djokovic was a suprise, but Alcaraz’s form has not been as consistent by his own lofty standards since claiming the title at Wimbledon. The 20-year-old’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, said this week: “I think that professionally [Alcaraz] has to start learning that the world of tennis is from January to November.”
The Spaniard needs no greater example of what is required to reach the top and stay there than the man who will be on the other side of the net to him at Pala Alpitour. Nobody needs to tell Djokovic, very much still the alpha in men’s tennis, that the season runs 11 months of the calendar. Should Djokovic, who has already sewn up the end-of-year world No 1 ranking, win his next two matches he will move past Roger Federer and take solo possession of the record for ATP Finals titles with seven.
After Wimbledon it felt like Alcaraz was ready to become The Guytm, but now he has to win that battle all over again. I am hoping for fireworks.