Carlos Alcaraz called Novak Djokovic on the wrong night. And on the wrong court.
While the Spaniard and the public inside the Pala Alpitour in Turin awaited another epic confrontation like in the finals of Wimbledon and Cincinnati, Djokovic played – in his words – “one of his best matches of the year” and won 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals of the Nitto ATP Finals.
“He played at the same level throughout the game. The quality of his shot is incredible,” said Alcaraz, who was unable to take advantage of any of the four breakaway opportunities he generated for the rest. “He plays very, very deep. It’s really hard to take advantage of that. He has once again shown why he is the best player in the world.”
The Turin debutant also noted that his lack of experience on indoor hard courts, especially when compared to that of Djokovic, a seven-time champion in Paris and six-time champion at the season-ending tournament, was decisive.
“I feel like I’m obviously not at their level on the indoor court. I have played great matches at Wimbledon, in Cincinnati, at Roland Garros. In these games I felt that I am at the level… But he has more experience than me playing in these tournaments, on these courts.”
Alcaraz had a mixed night with his service. He fired 10 aces and put 84 percent of first serves into play, but only won a modest 62 percent of first serve points while Djokovic produced the best return of him. The Spaniard won only three of nine second serves.
By contrast, Djokovic won 81 percent of first serve points and 56 percent of second serve points.
“It’s not just about serving against him. He has a great return game,” Alcaraz said. “Is incredible. Like I said, he pushes you to the limit at every point.”
“I probably played great points, but I made three, four mistakes. Something like mistakes on the first ball. Against a player like Novak, you can’t do that.”
Although he was unable to defend his year-end No. 1, an honor presented by Pepperstone, finishing No. 2 behind Djokovic after missing the Australian Open through injury was an impressive feat. The 20-year-old won six titles adding to the five he won in 2022, including Wimbledon and the ATP Masters 1000 in Indian Wells and Madrid.
Looking ahead to 2024, when he hopes to return to Melbourne Park, Alcaraz said: “This game helps me a lot going into pre-season. “Right now I know all the things I have to improve if I want to be there, if I want to beat the best player in the world.”
“With Juan Carlos [Ferrero] We have to talk about the preseason, what we have to practice, what we have to do. Obviously, I will watch the game again to see my weaknesses, just to improve them and be a better player.”
“I will forget about all the matches I played against him, the Wimbledon final, Cincinnati, Roland Garros, and I am going to concentrate on this match because I feel that I have to improve many things if I want to remain at his level.”