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Alcaraz will have to kick Djokovic off his throne, says Wilander

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The 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz will attempt to end Djokovic’s 34-match winning run on the Wimbledon grass and deny the Serbian a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title and fifth straight title at the All England Club where he has been champion seven times.

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz returns the ball to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev during their men’s singles semi-finals tennis match on the twelfth day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon. Picture: SEBASTIEN BOZON, AFP

Martyn Herman, in London – Carlos Alcaraz will have to kick Novak Djokovic off his Wimbledon throne in Sunday’s final because he will not be given an inch, according to seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander.

The 20-year-old Spaniard will attempt to end Djokovic’s 34-match winning run on the Wimbledon grass and deny the Serbian a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title and fifth straight title at the All England Club where he has been champion seven times.

Alcaraz is already world number one and claimed last year’s U.S. Open by beating Casper Ruud, but the challenge of Djokovic is “another universe”, according to Wilander.

Should he succeed, however, the Swede believes it would represent a seismic shift in men’s tennis.

“If he can put the puzzle together against Novak who gives you nothing, then we’re talking about somebody who’s going to transcend our game,” Wilander, who heads Eurosport’s coverage of the final, told Reuters at Wimbledon on Saturday.

“It’s really important that Carlos Alcaraz beats Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam final before (Djokovic’s career) is over. It’s really important for our sport that the person that’s the champion gets kicked off the throne, just like Lleyton Hewitt did with Pete Sampras.

“It would be an injection of energy for our sport if Carlos can do that at some point, if not tomorrow then at the US Open. One of the young guys needs to beat Novak before he’s done.”

Alcaraz’s all-court game has wowed the Wimbledon crowds this year and Wilander says he is the ‘complete package’.

“He has the shot selection of (Roger) Federer. He’s got Rafa (Nadal’s) passion. He’s got Djokovic’s movement. And then he has one more thing which none of them had or have, which is the smile.

“The ease that he does everything with and it looks so comfortable.”

Alcaraz destroyed Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev to set up the Djokovic showdown but will need to replicate that performance, and some, if he is to win on Sunday, says Wilander.

The Spaniard faced Djokovic in an eagerly-awaited French Open semi-final last month but after winning the opening set he suffered cramp and was overwhelmed in four sets.

“Of course Djokovic can lose but I don’t think he cares less about that any more,” Wilander said.

“He’s going to come in and play at about 90% the whole time, dipping to maybe 85% and sometimes up to 95%. But he’s going to be there the whole time. Carlos is going to be roller-coasting through the match because you can’t stay with Novak for five sets. You have to go in and out. Novak will have no dip.

“The thing with Carlos is can he do what all of us did when we were really young, which is suddenly, because of the adrenaline… play a match you didn’t even realise you could play, like Boris Becker here in 1985.

“It’s possible that Carlos Alcaraz plays 25% better tomorrow because that’s happened before to young guys, and girls.”

With Federer retired, Nadal soon to follow and Djokovic in the final chapters of his career, despite still being the dominant force, men’s tennis is at the end of an era — with those three having shared 65 Grand Slam titles.

“Carlos has come at a perfect time,” Wilander said. “He’s so infectious, he’s the perfect person at the perfect time. But he can’t keep losing to Djokovic in Grand Slams.”

Reuters

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