From the Author

Ideas and Opinions about the 2023 Wimbledon

Before the Wimbledon final, seven-time major winner Mats Wilander put Novak Djokovic’s chances of beating Carlos Alcaraz and winning the four Grand Slam events this year at 90 percent. “He’s got too many weapons. He knows everything there is to know about the sport. He’s got it all down to a science. The opponents aren’t ready for him,” Wilander told The New York Times.


Odds-makers made Djokovic a solid 1-2 favorite in the Wimbledon final. ESPN analysts James Blake and Brad Gilbert predicted Djokovic would win in four sets. After all, earlier this season the Serb had captured his 10th Australian Open on hard courts and third French Open on clay and dropped only two sets in getting to the Wimbledon final—to Hubert Hurkacz and Andrey Rublev. Above all, Novak had captured the last four Wimbledons he played.

After defeating Rublev, Djokovic, oozing with confidence, crowed: “I know my opponents want to get a scalp, they want to get a win. But it ain’t happening, still.”

The key words in Wilander’s prediction were “the opponents.” Mats generalized. He underestimated the fact that Alcaraz is a sui generis athlete.

In terms of mastering tennis technique and tactics and combining that with his extraordinary athleticism, John McEnroe regularly said he had never seen anyone—except for Alcaraz—with such a complete game at such a young age.

But what about mastering the intricacies of grass despite his inexperience on the most specialized tennis surface? Carlos silenced doubters by winning the Queen’s Club tournament in June. True, he faced no top 15 opponents, but after barely beating Arthur Rinderknech in the first round, Alcaraz found his footing—literally on the slick grass—and decisively defeated Jiri Lehecka, Grigor Dimitrov, Sebastian Korda, and Alex de Minaur.

In theory, Alcaraz always seemed well-suited to excel on grass. His low center of gravity enhanced his balance. Martina Navratilova said Carlos possessed the best combination of power and touch she’d ever seen. And both power and touch shots are very effective on grass. More specifically, his flat, slice, and kick serves are all terrific, and in my view, he has the best net game in men’s tennis. He’s also the fastest player and has wonderful improvisational skills.

Some wondered whether he’d suffer from nerves, which along with the 87-degree heat, gave him full-body cramps during his four-set loss to Djokovic in the French Open semis. But, Alcaraz, a fast learner, used relaxation techniques suggested by his psychologist and drank the right potion of electrolytes to ensure his body wouldn’t break down.

For all of these reasons, I considered the final to be a toss-up. Someone had to win, of course, so I predicted in an email to tennis friends that Alcaraz would win 7-5 in the fifth set.

While the final was exciting and both superstars hit plenty of superb shots, it wasn’t a classic. That’s because Alcaraz and Djokovic seldom played their best at the same time and only one of the five sets was close. That exception was the critical and pivotal second set when Alcaraz took the tiebreaker, 8-6. The shocker came when Novak served, leading 6-5. A point away from earning a two-set lead, he inexplicably made two unforced errors on his backhand, the best backhand in tennis history. After winning a record 15 straight tiebreakers at Grand Slam events, the pressure finally did Djokovic in. Seizing his chance, Alcaraz whacked a backhand serve return winner down the line to grab the set, 7-6.

Alcaraz showed his tenacity in the marathon fifth game of the decisive 6-1 third set. The 27-minute game had 13 deuces. Djokovic had eight game points but failed to hold serve, while Alcaraz finally converted on his seventh break point.

In the deciding set, Alcaraz showed his high-powered offense. With his energy still high, he broke Djokovic’s serve early, for a 2-1 lead—thanks to four winners. All told, the 20-year-old Spaniard, tellingly, belted 18 winners to just three for the 36-year Serb in the fifth set.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion was dethroned 1-6, 7-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.

The most astute analysis of No. 1 Alcaraz came from the thoroughly impressed Djokovic.

“I think people have been talking in the past 12 months or so about his game consisting of certain elements from Roger, Rafa, and myself,” said Djokovic. “I would agree with that. I think he’s got basically the best of all three worlds. He’s got this Spanish bull mentality of competitiveness and fighting spirit and incredible defense. I haven’t played a player like him ever, to be honest. Roger and Rafa have their own 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.”