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Djokovic exacts revenge – Novak Djokovic needed five match points and nearly four hours to pull off a gritty victory over Carlos Alcaraz and claim a third ATP Cincinnati Open title. A tough struggle between the world’s top two players saw Djokovic — who looked out on his feet in the second set — save a match point before coming through on his own fifth match point for a 5-7, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/4) triumph.
He described the match as crazy and conceded that it was the toughest he played in his life. 23-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, who was seen by the doctors early in the second set for heat illness in a battle that lasted three hours and 44 minutes.It was another epic chapter to the budding rivalry between 20-year-old top-ranked Alcaraz and the 36-year-old Serb star, who avenged his loss to the Spaniard in a five-set Wimbledon final last month.The two — who have traded the number one ranking six times this year — are now level on two wins a piece in their head-to-head rivalry.
The 20-year-old unleashed everything he had at Djokovic and found it was not enough. Djokovic, who earned a record-extending 39th victory at the elite Masters 1000 level, secured the first break of the opening set at love for a 4-2 lead.Alcaraz broke back and broke again for a 6-5 lead then held to take the set before Djokovic left the court for a seven-minute change of clothes. Djokovic, clearly affected by the hot, muggy conditions, was visited by the trainer and doctor in the second set. He was broken to trail 2-1, Alcaraz grabbing a 4-2 edge with a drop shot that Djokovic could not touch.But Djokovic broke Alcaraz to pull level 4-4 on the way to a tie-breaker. Djokovic saved a match point at 5-6 and forced a third set when Alcaraz dumped a shot into the net on Djokovic’s second set point.
Djokovic headed off to the locker room for another clothing change while Alcaraz pounded his right hand on his bench in frustration as he sat down. The Spaniard — who then needed to have a finger taped up — was broken in a nine-minute seventh game that featured five break points. The back-and-forth battle continued, Djokovic unable to convert serving for the match at 5-4 but putting it away two games later after the longest best-of-three set final in ATP Tour history. A weary Djokovic dropped to the court in relief, then bounced up and ripped his shirt down the middle as he let out a roar of triumph or agony — or perhaps a bit of both. Alcaraz will remain number one in the world and will be the top seed while defending his title at the US Open, which starts on 28 August. Djokovic, who declined to be vaccinated against Covid-19, was playing his first US tournament in two years. The Weekender