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'World watching' as Djokovic, Alcaraz clash for Wimbledon title

'World watching' as Djokovic, Alcaraz clash for Wimbledon title
July 15, 2023 Web Desk

LONDON (AFP) - Novak Djokovic says the "world of sport" will be watching when he faces Carlos Alcaraz in a Wimbledon final where history and a generational shift are at stake.

Djokovic is attempting to equal Roger Federer's record of eight titles at the All England Club and match Margaret Court's all-time mark of 24 Grand Slam crowns. Having already pocketed the Australian Open and French Open in 2023, victory on Sunday will put the 36-year-old just one major away from completing the first men's calendar Grand Slam since 1969.

"It's the ultimate showdown," said Djokovic, who will be playing in a record 35th Grand Slam final. "Everything comes down to one match. All eyes of the tennis and sports world will be directed on this Sunday's Wimbledon final. It's probably the most watched tennis match globally."

At 20, Alcaraz is Djokovic's junior by 16 years. When Djokovic captured the first of his 23 majors at the 2008 Australian Open, the Spaniard was still three months shy of his fifth birthday. Djokovic can become Wimbledon's oldest champion while Alcaraz is bidding to be its third youngest after Boris Becker and Bjorn Borg.

"I obviously have more experience. It can help a little bit in some important moments, beginning the match, managing the nerves, managing the occasion, circumstances," said Djokovic. "But it's not going to be the deciding factor really. Whoever, on a given day, is in a better state, mentally and physically, will be the winner."

Djokovic won the mind games when the pair clashed in the French Open semi-finals in June. Alcaraz suffered body cramping, a physical ailment brought on, he freely admitted, just by the sight of Djokovic on the other side of the net. "If you think how big he is, you struggle," admitted Italy's Jannik Sinner who was blown off court by Djokovic in Friday's semi-final.

The memory of his Paris collapse is still raw for Alcaraz who plans a series of mental exercises to counter the tension on Sunday. "I'll try to forget that I'm going to play a final against Novak," he said.

'Best moment of my life' 

Sunday will be Alcaraz's first Wimbledon final in just his fourth grass-court event. Djokovic is in his ninth championship match at the All England Club. The Serb has won 34 successive matches at the tournament and has not been beaten on Centre Court since losing the 2013 final to Andy Murray.

"He's in great shape," Djokovic said of Alcaraz. "He's very motivated. He's young. He's hungry. I'm hungry, too, so let's have a feast."

Their progress to the final has been similar. Both have only lost two sets. They have spent virtually the same amount of time on court. "This is going to be the best moment of my life," said Alcaraz who aims to become the third Spanish men's champion after Manuel Santana in 1966 and Rafael Nadal, who won the title in 2008 and 2010.

"Playing a final here in Wimbledon is something that I dream about when I start playing tennis. "It's even better playing against Novak. It's going to be a really emotional moment for me. For Novak is one more day, one more moment," added Alcaraz who described Djokovic as a "legend" of tennis.

Alcaraz will likely enjoy most of the crowd support as All England Club fans, in common with most around the world, remain stoically ambivalent of Djokovic despite his status in the game.

There were wild cheers when Alcaraz told a courtside TV interviewer after his semi-final demolition of Daniil Medvedev that he believed he could beat Djokovic and that it was "no time to be afraid". Just hours earlier, Djokovic had feigned mock tears and cupped his ear in response to his pro-Sinner supporters.