When Carlos Alcaraz burst onto the scene, Novak Djokovic was already one of the best players in history. As much as the Spaniard respects the Serbian, he has brought an element of fearlessness to his matches with the longest-serving world No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
That has helped develop a captivating Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry between the sport’s two best players – a rivalry that blossomed in 2023 with four Lexus ATP Head2Head matchups. ATPTour.com looks back at those memorable matches here.
SF Roland Garros 2023, Djokovic d. Alcaraz 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1
There was a lot of expectation before the semifinal between Djokovic and Alcaraz in Paris, especially after their first meeting, won by the Spaniard just over a year ago.
But after a promising start, what seemed like a battle faded in Djokovic’s favor. Alcaraz suffered cramps and was unable to play at his true level from the second set onwards.
“[Fue debido a] the tension of the match,” Alcaraz said. “I started the match very nervous. The tension of the first set and the second was really intense. Very good rallies, hard rallies, drop shots, sprints, rallies. A combination of many things. But the main thing was the tension I had throughout the first two sets.”
“First of all I have to say, bad luck for Carlos,” Djokovic said. “Obviously at this level the last thing you want is cramps and physical problems in the last phases of a Grand Slam. I feel sorry for him. I hope he can recover and that he can return very soon.”
Foto: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Wimbledon Final 2023, Alcaraz d. Djokovic 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4
The bets were against Alcaraz heading into the Wimbledon final. Djokovic had won seven titles in the tournament and had the momentum of having won the first two Grand Slams of the 2023 season. Alcaraz was playing in only the fourth grass-court tournament of his career.
There were also dents in the Spaniard’s armor. On a surface on which he had proven his worth, clay, Alcaraz let his nerves get the better of him against Djokovic at Roland Garros. Would the same happen on Center Court?
After an uneven first set, the answer was a resounding “no.” Alcaraz demonstrated not only impressive striking ability, but also a fierce determination to resist the Serbian’s relentless attacks. The 20-year-old’s five-set victory marked his second major win.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Alcaraz declared. “Of course it’s great to win, but even if I had lost, I would be very proud of myself with this incredible streak. Making history in this beautiful tournament, playing in a final against a legend of our sport.
Photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Final Western & Southern Open 2023, Djokovic d. Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4)
Djokovic almost lost in more ways than one. After Alcaraz’s victory in the Wimbledon final, some wondered if the grass-court tournament final was a sign of the passing of the torch.
The Serbian did nothing to silence those comments at the beginning of the Cincinnati final. Alcaraz led by a set and a break and looked poised for another big win against his main rival.
But the 36-year-old relied on his champion spirit to come back from a set and a break down. He saved the championship point in the second set tie-break and fought for three hours and 49 minutes to win one of the best matches in recent memory. It was the longest best-of-three-set final in the history of the ATP circuit (since 1990).
“Overall, it was one of the toughest and most exciting matches I have ever participated in,” Djokovic said. “These are the kind of moments and matches that I continue to work for day in and day out. I have never doubted that I can give my best when it matters most, and I am delighted.”
SFs Nitto ATP Finals 2023, Djokovic d. Alcaraz 6-3, 6-2
As expected, the two most prolific champions of the 2023 season faced each other in the knockout rounds of the ATP Finals, where champions become champions. In their fourth meeting of the year, Djokovic scored a resounding victory en route to his record seventh title of the season.
With a new life in Turin after Jannik Sinner’s victory in the group stage gave him a place in the semi-finals, Djokovic arrived with a new mentality in the semi-final. Eager to take the initiative against Alcaraz, the Serbian’s aggressive play tied up his rival, who dominated the early stages of the match.
Alcaraz got into the match in the second set and, after winning several rallies with his supreme athleticism, created his chance with a 15/40 for a chance to tie the second set at 3-3. Instead, Djokovic controlled himself. Instead, Djokovic buckled and served to get out of trouble. The world number 1 did not lose a single game again and closed his victory.
“I approached the match with the right attitude and mentality, and from the first point I knew it was going to be very intense,” Djokovic said. “He had break points right away, 15/40 in the first game. That’s Carlos. He always brings out the best in these types of matches and starts with tennis of great quality and intensity. You have to match that, try to pass the temporary, and I did it.