On Sunday, Novak Djokovic won the Western & Southern Open title in Cincinnati, Ohio by defeating Carlos Alcaraz with a score of 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4). This victory was a redemption for Djokovic after losing to Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.
The 36-year-old Serbian player competed in his first US tournament since 2021. Despite being a set and a break behind, he made a comeback against the top-ranked player and even saved a match point. He ultimately won his third Cincinnati Open championship and his 95th title on the ATP Tour.
After a three hour and 49-minute match, which is the longest best-of-three sets final on the ATP Tour in almost 30 years, Djokovic fell to the ground for a few moments before rising and ripping off his shirt.
“I am completely drained, but that was definitely one of the most challenging and thrilling matches I have ever played in a tournament,” stated Djokovic. “It felt like a grand slam final, even more intense than that. Every time we face each other, it becomes a long battle.”
Djokovic expressed his desire to face the 20-year-old in New York next month, possibly giving fans a sneak peek of the US Open final. However, he hesitated before mentioning that it may not be favorable for him personally.
Alcaraz had the 23-time grand slam winner at a disadvantage in the second set with a score of 4-3, but a series of mistakes, including four unforced errors, allowed Djokovic to make a comeback.
In the second set, a tie break would occur where the Serbian managed to prevent the opponent from winning the championship point, leading to the third and final set after a 25-shot rally.
In the third round, Djokovic was unable to take advantage of numerous opportunities to win the championship and the pair ended up in another tiebreaker, which Djokovic ultimately won.
“I am in awe of competing against you, being on the same court as you, and gaining knowledge from you,” Alcaraz expressed to Djokovic during the award presentation. “This was a tightly contested match, but I have gained valuable lessons from a true champion like yourself. So I extend my congratulations to you and your team.”
Djokovic participated in his inaugural competition on American territory since his defeat in the US Open finals against Daniil Medvedev in 2021. Due to his decision not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, Djokovic was unable to enter the United States for the previous two years.
Earlier this year, the vaccination requirements for non-US travelers were lifted, allowing Djokovic to participate in the Cincinnati competition.
Both players will now focus on the upcoming US Open, starting on August 28 in New York. Djokovic aims to win his 24th singles grand slam title and break the record for the most all-time titles, currently held by Margaret Court for both men and women.