Carlos Alcaraz proves he’s the real deal at Wimbledon after beating Djokovic

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The last time Carlos Alcaraz faced Novak Djokovic he was left so frightened that the Spaniard turned into a nervous wreck and ended up suffering debilitating cramps that cruelly crushed his French Open dreams in front of a global audience.

What a difference five weeks can make.

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Up against the same opponent, who had not lost at Wimbledon since 2016, Alcaraz was staring into an abyss as Djokovic roared to a 5-0 opening set lead in Sunday’s All England Club finale.

But unlike the Roland Garros semi-finals, Alcaraz had come into the Wimbledon showpiece armed with a new-found mental belief that he belongs among the elite.

That confidence carried him through a five-set, near five hour, roller-coaster on Sunday as he finally ended Djokovic’s reign to usher in a new era at Wimbledon -- a win that was being trumpet-ed as the changing of the guard in men’s tennis.

“I did it for myself, not for tennis generation, honestly. It was great,” the 20-year-old said after subjecting 23-time major cham-pion Djokovic to his first Centre Court defeat in a decade with a 1-6 7-6(6) 6-1 3-6 6-4 victory.

“Beating Novak at his best, in this stage, making history, being the guy to beat him after 10 years unbeaten on that court, is amazing for me. It’s something that I will never forget, that’s for sure.

“It’s great for the new generation, as well, I think to see me beating him and making them think that they are capable to do it as well. It’s great for me and I think for the young players, as well.”

For more than a decade, a number of talented “Next Gen” players had been hyped up to break the Djokovic-Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer hold on top of men’s tennis.

All that talk amounted to little as the Big Three maintained their vice-like grip on the slams, having won 65 majors between them dating back to Federer’s first Wimbledon triumph in 2003.

While Federer retired last year, Djokovic and Nadal had won eight of the last 10 slams before Sunday’s Wimbledon finale.

Against that backdrop, Alcaraz managed to prove that he was the real deal when he won his first major at last year’s US Open and then ascended to the top of the ATP rankings.

But as he did not have to face either Djokovic or Nadal during that run, question marks remained about how he would go up against the all-time greats in a best-of-five-set showdown.

If the French Open clash with Djokovic raised some doubts about his mental fortitude, the world number one proved on Sunday that he is a very quick learner.

“I am a totally different player than at the French Open. I grew up a lot since that moment. I learned a lot from that moment,” said Al-caraz, who became the youngest Wimbledon champion since 18-year-old Boris Becker won the title in 1986.

“I prepared a little bit different mentally before the match. I could deal with the pressure, the nerves, better than I did in the French Open.

“I didn’t get down, I didn’t give up. I fought until the last ball.”

While Alcaraz celebrated becoming the first man other than Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and Andy Murray to win Wimbledon since 2002, the triumph took on extra significance as he did it by beating the player who has won a record number of men’s slams.

“Beating Novak, winning the Wimbledon championship is some-thing that I dreamed about since I started playing tennis. That’s why this is the biggest moment of my life,” he said.

“Before this match, I thought that I wasn’t ready to beat Djokovic in five sets, an epic match like this. To stay good physically or good mentally for about five hours against a legend ... I learned (a lot) about myself today.

“Being a Wimbledon champion, something that I really wanted. Honestly, I didn’t expect to get it so soon. It’s the happiest moment of my life.”

Read more: Tennis: Age not a barrier for Djokovic after matching Graf, say younger rivals

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