Novak Djokovic has played great rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer a combined 109 times. On Sunday, he faced Carlos Alcaraz for just the third time, falling against the 20-year-old Spaniard in five sets in the Wimbledon final.
Reflecting on the clash, Djokovic was full of praise for Alcaraz, comparing the World No. 1 to 20-time major winner Federer and 22-time Slam champion Nadal.
“I think people have been talking in the past 12 months or so about [Alcaraz’s] game consisting of certain elements from Roger, Rafa, and myself. I would agree with that. I think he's got basically best of all three worlds,” Djokovic said.
“He's got this mental resilience and really 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. The two-handed backhands, defence, being able to adapt. I think that has been my personal strength for many years. He has it, too.
“I haven't played a player like him ever, to be honest. Roger and Rafa have their own obvious 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.”
Djokovic’s title match against Alcaraz was a winner-takes-all showdown, with the champion leaving London with the trophy and the No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking. With his second major, Alcaraz on Monday will begin his 29th week in top spot.
Djokovic is excited by his rivalry with Alcaraz, feeling that it is good for the sport.
“He's going to be on the Tour for quite some time. I don't know how long I'll be around. It's been only three matches that we played against each other. Three really close matches. Two already this year in later stages of Grand Slams,” said Djokovic, who defeated Alcaraz en route to the Roland Garros crown.
“I hope we get to play in US Open. Why not? I think it's good for the sport, 1 and 2 in the world facing each other in almost a five-hours, five-set thriller. Couldn't be better for our sport in general.”
After winning the first set, Djokovic found himself in a tie-break in the second set. The 36-year-old had won his past 15 tie-breaks at majors prior to Sunday, but was unable to fend off Alcaraz, who gained a foothold in the match by levelling.
“I would say the tie-break in the second set,” Djokovic said in his press conference when asked if he had any regrets. “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, and 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.”
Djokovic leaves London holding a 33-5 record on the season, highlighted by capturing a record 23rd major at Roland Garros. The Serbian is also second in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin as he aims to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the 16th time.