Monday, July 17, 2023

to be crowned


LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Carlos Alcaraz of Spain acknowledges the crowd with the Men's Singles Trophy on Centre Court Balcony following his victory in the Men's Singles Final against Novak Djokovic of Serbia on day fourteen of The Championships Wimbledon 2023 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 16, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

How Carlos Alcaraz tamed ‘lion’ Novak Djokovic to be crowned Wimbledon champion

Charlie Scott
Jul 16, 2023


In more than a decade, 45 players had failed to beat Novak Djokovic on Centre Court. The most recent one to manage it was Andy Murray, in the Wimbledon final on July 7, 2013. 

For 34 consecutive matches, the Serbian had not lost on any of the courts at the All England Club, lifting the trophy in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022 (the event was not played in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic), and reaching the final this year. 

Before that match on Sunday, Djokovic had won a ridiculous 60 of the 65 sets he had played in grand slam events in 2023. He had also won his past 15 tie-breaks in those three tournaments.

Oh, and there was the small matter of the 23 grand slam titles in his locker and everything those experiences have taught him. 

On Sunday, however, he lost a tie-break and lost three sets — and with it, he lost his Wimbledon title.

Carlos Alcaraz is different. 



Carlos Alcaraz is the compelling rival both Novak Djokovic and men's tennis needed

Different to all those players who tried and failed to stop Djokovic here, and different to anyone who has come before him. You don’t need to trust me on that; I’ll pass you over to Djokovic. 

“I haven’t played a player like him ever, to be honest.”

A world No 1 at age 19 after winning the US Open last year, Alcaraz was the youngest player to reach the top of the rankings and, still only 20, remains the youngest player in the top 50. Now, he is also the third youngest male champion at Wimbledon since tennis went professional in 1968, after Boris Becker (1985) and Bjorn Borg (1976). 

B.C (Before Carlos), no player since Djokovic was born in May 1987 had won the Wimbledon men’s title. 

On the 78 previous occasions that Djokovic had taken the first set of a match at Wimbledon, he went on to win. 

Not today.

So, how did Alcaraz tame the player he had described as a “lion” before Sunday’s final?

Well, he got at Djokovic’s serve, for starters — certainly from the second set onwards. The reigning champion faced as many break points in the final (19), as he had in the rest of the tournament combined. Alcaraz broke his serve five times over the five sets, after Djokovic had only lost three service games in his six matches en route to the main event. 

(Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The most painful break for Djokovic will have been the fifth game of the third set. Already one break up, Alcaraz just would not yield in a mammoth 26-minute game that involved 32 points and seven break points.

The Spaniard hit 66 winners to Djokovic’s 32, including in clutch moments.

What about unforced errors, I hear you ask? Well, he only hit five more than his opponent (45 to 40), so it wasn’t like he was being overly reckless either. He often talks about playing aggressively — this was controlled, impactful aggression. 

The speed at which Alcaraz has mastered grass is absurd. He had only played three tournaments on it before this Wimbledon. In his two previous visits here he had never got past the fourth round, and now he’s won the damn thing — against a player who looked unbeatable on this surface. Alcaraz has played 12 matches on grass this summer, at Queen’s and Wimbledon, and won all 12. 

So, what changed? Maximising his playing time at Queen’s and Wimbledon will have certainly helped. “Every time that I get out to the court playing, it’s better for me,” he said after winning that west London warm-up event last month. “I get more experience, that is really, really important on that surface.”

Alcaraz has become more acquainted with the low bounce, the occasionally dodgy one, and has been able to transfer his speed from the game’s clay and hard courts onto turf. That has proven key during his title-winning run here. His movement is so measured and purposeful, and he has so rarely looked like he was out of a point because of his confidence and recovery speed. 

(Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Two months out of his teens, he has become as good on grass as he is on clay and on hard courts. Djokovic, 36, nodded to that on Centre Court after the match: “I thought I’d have trouble with you on hard courts and on clay but not on grass…”

And later on, the deposed champion expanded on it. “I must say he surprised me. He surprised everyone with how quickly he adapted to grass this year. He hasn’t had too many wins on grass in the last two years that he played. 

“I think Queen’s helped him a lot. He was close to losing that opening match in Queen’s (Alcaraz needed all three sets to beat world No 82 Arthur Rinderknech 4-6, 7-5, 7-6). Then he started to gain momentum, more and more wins against really good players.

“Wimbledon courts are slower than Aorangi courts (this tournament’s practice courts) or maybe Queen’s courts. It’s more suitable for, I guess, the baseliners like he is.

“I must say the slices, the kind of chipping returns, the net play; it’s very impressive. I didn’t expect him to play so well this year on grass, but he’s proven that he’s the best player in the world, no doubt.

“He’s playing some fantastic tennis on different surfaces and he deserves to be where he is.”

When asked by The Athletic earlier in the tournament what was the hardest thing about facing Djokovic, Alcaraz, who lost in four sets to him a month ago in the French Open semi-finals, said: “Well, the pressure. I would say the pressure that he puts on everyone — not only me, everyone — to play at their best for about three hours in a grand slam. 

“I have to deal with that, but it is something that I really want. I hope to play a final here against him. For me, this probably is the toughest thing facing Novak.”

On Sunday, Alcaraz would have loved for it to be over in three hours. In reality, they battled it out for four hours, and then another 42 minutes. But that pressure he spoke of earlier in the fortnight certainly didn’t get to him.

“Credit to Carlos,” said Djokovic. “Amazing poise in the important moments. For someone of his age to handle the nerves like this, be playing attacking tennis, and to close out the match the way he did… I thought I returned very well that last game, but he was just coming up with some amazing, amazing shots.”

One of the best examples of that poise and fearlessness came in the second set tie-break. With the Centre Court crowd chanting his name before the decisive point, the Spaniard fizzed an outrageous backhand winner past Djokovic to level at one set all. The atmosphere was electric and he lapped up the applause, putting a finger to his ear as he strode over to his seat. 

Then he maintained that momentum, breaking Djokovic immediately in the opening game of the third set, which put him in a great position by the time that game happened.

The entirety of the first set had lasted 34 minutes; the fifth game of the third set lasted 26. Alcaraz broke again and went 4-1 up. After his investment to win that game, the rest of that set felt like a formality. The 6-1 scoreline inflicted on Djokovic is not a familiar one. In his 71-tournament grand slam career, it has only happened 13 times. 

The fourth set was one to forget for Alcaraz, Djokovic taking it 6-3, but he regrouped in the fifth set and was now fully locked in. There were some bullet forehands to hold at 1-0 down and in the next game, he broke courtesy of three winners. Then he held to love for 3-1, finishing that game with an ace. He did the same at the end of his service games to go 4-2 and 5-3 up. Then there were two brilliant winners as he served for the match. 

Alcaraz kept his head when those around him were losing theirs. In particular, two moments stand out. A Djokovic backhand into the net at set point in the second set’s tie-break. Then, a point later, another weak backhand into the net provided Alcaraz with a break point. He duly did the business.  

“I would say tie-break in the second (was my biggest regret in the match),” said Djokovic. “The backhands kind of let me down, to be honest. Set point, I missed the backhand. He did play a backhand that was quite long in the court, had a little bit of a bad bounce. But I should not have missed that shot.

“Then on 6-6, again, another backhand from middle of the court in the net. Just two very poor backhands. That’s it. The match shifted to his side. It turned around. He just raised his level so much in the third. I wasn’t myself for quite some time.”

There was also a very costly missed drive volley when Djokovic had break point at 1-0 up in the final set. 

“I managed to regroup and regain the momentum midway in the fourth. I felt that the momentum shifted to my side. That was my chance (the drive volley early in the fifth). That was my opportunity,” Djokovic said. “That break point, I think I played a really good point, kind of set up that drive volley.

“It was very, very windy today. The wind kind of took it to an awkward place where I couldn’t hit the smash, I had to hit the drive volley kind of falling back. I saw him perfectly running to the opposite corner. I kind of wanted to wrong-foot him with that drive volley, and I missed.”

(Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Alcaraz broke in the next game, and then served out for the match and championship. That break of serve that followed his miss so infuriated Djokovic that he wrapped his racket around the net post. 

At times on Centre Court, it was like that Spider-Man meme — Djokovic must have felt like he was playing against himself. There were similar shots, similar movements, a similar I-will-never-ever-ever-stop-running mentality.

“I think people have been talking in the past 12 months or so about Carlos’ game consisting of certain elements from Roger (Federer), Rafa (Nadal), and myself. I would agree with that. I think he’s got basically the best of all three worlds,” said Djokovic.

“He’s got this mental resilience and real maturity for someone who is 20 years old. It’s quite impressive. He’s got this Spanish-bull mentality of competitiveness and fighting spirit and incredible defence that we’ve seen with Rafa over the years.

“And I think he’s got some nice sliding backhands that he’s got some similarities with my backhands. Yeah, two-handed backhands, defence, being able to adapt. I think that has been my strength for many years. He has it, too.

(Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

“I haven’t played a player like him ever, to be honest. Roger and Rafa have their own strengths and weaknesses. Carlos is a very complete player; amazing adapting capabilities that I think are a key for longevity and for a successful career on all surfaces.”

Is this a changing of the guard? We shall see, it certainly felt pretty seismic sitting on Centre Court and watching Alcaraz go toe to toe with Djokovic and emerge with the Wimbledon trophy.



Carlos Alcaraz is the compelling rival both Novak Djokovic and men's tennis needed

(Top photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Charlie Scott

Senior Editor for The Athletic UK. Follow Charlie on Twitter @charliefscott

Subscribe to join the conversation.

· 16h 23m ago

Accurate analysis by Djokovic.


Adam N.

· 17h 7m ago

Fucking yessssss


Rich C.

· 15h 45m ago

Played with panache, fearlessness, and had the gonads to bring the goods when it mattered most. The feathery touch and nerves of steel on those ballsy and well timed drop shots to me were an underrated catalyst to winning the match and wearing down Novak also...Well done Carlos!!!

unseeded, unsponsored, undefeated



The unseeded, unsponsored, undefeated new champion of Wimbledon: How Marketa Vondrousova did the “impossible.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 15: Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic kisses the Women's Singles Trophy as she celebrates victory following the Women's Singles Final against Ons Jabeur of Tunisia on day thirteen of The Championships Wimbledon 2023 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 15, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova: Unseeded. Unsponsored. Undefeated.

Charlie Scott
Jul 15, 2023


Unseeded. Unsponsored. Undefeated. 

Marketa Vondrousova is the women’s champion of Wimbledon and her life is about to change.

The 24-year-old’s talent has never been in question, but not in her wildest dreams could she have imagined ending her 2023 challenge like this, with a 6-4, 6-4 win over one of the pre-tournament favourites, Ons Jabeur. 

She was — in her words — “crushed” by Ashleigh Barty in the 2019 French Open final as a teenager, and was the silver medallist to Belinda Bencic at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago. So she has been in big finals before. 

But on grass? Across her four previous visits to Wimbledon, she had won one match. Her career record on the surface, even with these seven wins in the past two weeks is: played 22, won 11, lost 11. 

She doesn’t have a kit sponsor after being dropped at the end of her four-year contract with Nike last year, and she is the first unseeded woman to win this title. The last woman to reach a Wimbledon final unseeded was Billie Jean King, who was still in college (and still known as Billie Jean Moffitt) when she lost to Margaret Court in 1963. When she and Vondrousova crossed paths after the final on Saturday, the American legend said: “You’re the first unseeded winner ever. I love it!”

(Photo: Julian Finney / Getty Images)

Nobody expected this, least of all Vondrousova and her coach Jan Hernych, and they will be getting tattoos together in the near future having made a bet before Wimbledon. 

“I think I’ll choose for him,” she said. “Maybe we’ll get the same one. We talked before the tournament, and he said, ‘Yeah, so maybe if you win a grand slam, then I’ll do it’. Then this is happening…”

Vondrousova’s story is one of patience and perseverance. She has lost count of the number of tattoos already on her body but there is one in particular on her arm that reads, “No rain, no flowers”. It sums her up rather perfectly. She’s been through a lot to get here. 

She won her first main-tour event at the age of 17, in only her second tournament, and it’s been a seven-year wait for the next title.

During that time, as well as those highs at Roland Garros and in Japan, she has suffered three big injuries — two of them to her wrists. 

She missed six months of 2022, including Wimbledon, after having wrist surgery. She still came to London last July, supporting her doubles partner Miriam Kolodziejova in qualifying and then enjoying the city. But her main aim at that point was to be out of the cast on her arm before marrying her partner Stepan Simek on July 16. That should be quite the first wedding anniversary tomorrow. 

Vondrousova returned to action in October, by which time she was ranked outside the world’s top 100. She reached the third round at the Australian Open and the second at the French Open. Her warm-up for Wimbledon was in Berlin, where she lost in the third round to a top-10 player in Maria Sakkari.

“I had a cast last year at this time,” she says. “It was impossible (to imagine this happening). I was watching my best friend here playing quallies (qualifiers). I was a tourist.

“When I was coming back from injury, I didn’t know what was going to happen, if I could play at that level again. This seems impossible. Even on grass, I didn’t play well before. I think it was the most impossible grand slam for me to win, so I didn’t even think of it.

“When we came, I was just like, ‘Let’s try to win a couple of matches’. Now this happened — it’s crazy.”

Having spent most of the fortnight looking after their cat Frankie back in Prague, Stepan flew over to be on Centre Court for the final after they found a cat-sitter. Vondrousova told us she plans to spend some of her £2.35million ($3.1m) prize money on some fish for Frankie.

(Photo: Tim Clayton / Corbis via Getty Images)

Stepan wasn’t showing much emotion in the player’s box during the match, and had his hand resting over his mouth at some of the most exciting moments. The Athletic asked if that calmness was superstition. 

“He’s like this all the time,” the new Wimbledon champion said, smiling. “I think when I came to the box, he cried. I saw him after, and he cried a lot. 

“I think that’s the first emotion I saw from him over the eight years (of our relationship),” she laughed. “I think he cried on the wedding day also, but that was it for the eight years, so… That’s it.”

Her mum stayed away for fear of jinxing the result, having been there in Berlin last month, when Vondrousova also lost in the doubles final with Katerina Siniakova.

So, how exactly did a player with no previous pedigree on grass beat Jabeur — the No 6 seed, also runner-up here last year and the most dominant player on this surface in the past three years? 

Well, again, patience played a big part. 

The thing about Vondrousova is, she’s a fantastic returner and a brilliant shot-maker. Only three players in the top 50 have a better record in 2023 when it comes to percentage of return points won (46.7) — world No 1 Iga Swiatek, fourth-ranked Jessica Pegula and the No 10 Daria Kasatkina. 

Before this match, Jabeur’s serve had been nigh on impenetrable. She had won 90 percent of her service games in her run to the final but Vondrousova succeeded where pretty much all her previous opponents had failed, breaking Jabeur again and again. The Tunisian won 40 percent (four of 10) of her service games today. Vondrousova’s returning was just too good. 

Jabeur admitted as much afterwards: “Not serving well did not help. Marketa returned every ball. Even if I did a good serve, she was there. I wish I was able to hold, especially in the first set. Maybe it could have been a different match.”

The very first point of the match oozed confidence from the Czech side of the court, Vondrousova playing a brilliant lob that clipped the baseline. Jabeur took an early break to lead 2-0 but her opponent hit back immediately. She was clinical when she had break points throughout the two sets, capitalising on six of seven. Deep, flat returns on Jabeur’s serve caused trouble and there was so much spin on her shots it made it difficult for her opponent to play her natural, sparky game. 

(Photo: Julian Finney / Getty Images)

From 4-2 up, Jabeur won just two points in the rest of that first set as Vondrousova dominated. She carried that into the second set too, breaking Jabeur again to go 1-0 up.

It wasn’t just the Tunisian’s serve that needed piecing back together. Her confidence was shaky and it seemed like maybe all that talk of her winning a first grand slam, and being the first North African and first Arab to do, had got to her. She was making uncharacteristic errors, hitting the net all too often. 

At 1-0 down in the second, Jabeur did brilliantly to rally from 40-0 down to break straight back. Then she held her serve for the first time in nearly half an hour to go 2-1 up. Again she broke Vondrousova. Was this the moment that everything changed? The crowd were on her side and it felt like the momentum was shifting. 

But that proved short-lived. Vondrousova broke back to make it 3-2 and got the crucial one to go 5-4 up (her sixth break of the match), before serving out for the championship.

Jabeur said before the match she “felt a lot of pressure, was feeling a lot of stress”. Trying to warm up in a black tracksuit, completely forgetting Wimbledon’s almost-all-white rule, might not have helped her nerves. Wimbledon told her to go back inside and change. 

It’s now three grand-slam final defeats in 12 months for Jabeur, and this will be a bitter defeat to process. “I think this is the most painful loss of my career,” she said on court when the match was over. “It’s going to be a tough day for me today, but I’m not going to give up. I’m going to come back stronger and win this tournament.”

She received support from two very different figures after the match: the Princess of Wales and four-time grand slam champion Kim Clijsters.

The Princess gave her a hug and encouraged her to be strong and to come back and finally win Wimbledon. “I told her hugs are always welcome and that was a very nice moment,” Jabeur said.

(Photo: Karwai Tang / WireImage)

“Kim was just telling me (she lost her first four finals). I love Kim so much. She’s a great inspiration for me. I grew up watching her a bit. The fact that she takes the time to give me advice and to really hug me, always be there for me, I think it’s priceless.”

Later on, Jabeur analysed the final in more detail, saying: “I think Marketa played the right match to win this final. I think she just put the ball in, slices a lot. I believe that it was a completely different match from the last three that I had.”

Jabeur had gotten used to the big hitting of Petra Kvitova, Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka in the previous three rounds, and Vondrousova’s slower forehand (5mph slower on average compared to those other three) really caught the No 6 seed out. 

“So maybe adapting to her rhythm was very difficult for me,” Jabeur says. “Plus the pressure and the stress of the final. I didn’t think she made a lot of mistakes (12 unforced errors, compared to Jabeur’s 31). I thought she served good. I think she played maybe a perfect final for herself.”

Vondrousova also runs all day and her foot speed is breathtaking. With the grass playing slower, helped on Saturday by Centre Court’s roof being closed due to adverse weather, she has been able to neutralise the power of her opponents and get to just about everything. 

She agreed that she benefited from the roof being shut.

“Yeah, I think it’s better for me. The roof can help you with your serve. You don’t have to focus on the wind so much. I feel like everything is the same on every side. I think you just have to focus on the game, not on the wind, not even on the sun.

“I think that’s a good thing. I’m used to playing indoors. We practice, in Prague in winter, indoors. I always play good indoors. I was like, yeah, maybe that’s going to help me.”

Jabeur must be sick of the sight of her. Vondrousova has now inflicted three defeats on her in 2023 — something no player has ever done before against the Tunisian in a single season.

Vondrousova started her campaign out in the wilderness of Court Seven and knocked out four seeds just to reach the semis: Veronika Kudermetova (No 12), Donna Vekic (No 21), Marie Bouzkova (No 32) and Pegula (No 4). Against the wildcard and people’s favourite Elina Svitolina in the last four, she produced one of the shots of the tournament — a squash-style Roger Federer-esque flat slice forehand that you can read more about here.

“I was just, like, open-minded (throughout the tournament),” she says of her remarkable run. “I didn’t have much stress, until today. I think you just have to believe in yourself. I was just trying not to think much about the title and everything.

“But when it was 40-0 (in the final game), I couldn’t breathe. I just was thinking to myself, ‘Just be over’.”

(Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Soon it was. 

Wimbledon has a new women’s champion — and soon she will have a new tattoo to show for it. 

Not bad for a player who had won just a solitary match on these courts before the 2023 tournament.

(Top photo: Julian Finney / Getty Images)

Charlie Scott

Senior Editor for The Athletic UK. Follow Charlie on Twitter @charliefscott


Subscribe to join the conversation.


Joshua W.

· Sat

Really is a great story. Thank you for covering it. Ons Jabeur psyched herself out, she's going to have to mentally approach major finals in a new way if she's ever going to win one. Vondrousova was so happy go lucky and relaxed as she pretty much said, that nothing seemed to phase her. Was interesting to watch that final with one player really pressing and the other a bit nonplussed.


Ron M.

· Sat

Fantastic story! Great match. Hope she gets a sponsor soon!


Sean F.

· Sun

Jabeur played two matches that could've easily been the finals, first vs. the defending champion Rybakina and then against the pre-tournament favorite Sabalenka, and she was so strong mentally. To end such an incredible run with the nervy, disjointed performance that we saw today is especially disappointing. Hopefully next year will finally be her year!