The matchup we’ve all been waiting for is Sunday: No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 2 Novak Djokovic. If Djokovic wins, he will set the record for the most Grand Slam titles of the Open era. If Alcaraz takes the title, it will be his second big win and a big upset. Who will do it? We asked our experts:
What can Alcaraz do to defeat Djokovic?
Pam Shriver: Alcaraz needs to manage the emotions of playing the biggest match in tennis, a Wimbledon final against Djokovic, who is compiling the greatest resume in tennis history. We often talk about how important intangibles are, but they’ve never been more important than this game. Alcaraz has the power, variety, mobility and mentality to beat Djokovic, if the 20-year-old can handle the occasion. Obviously, to beat Djokovic in 5 sets, a player must play well in all aspects of the game. He feels too early in Alcaraz’s career for him to beat Djokovic. It took Nadal a few tries to beat Federer on grass.
Alexandra Stevenson: Alcaraz has been happy in his matches. “Happy” matters when you’re playing in a Grand Slam final. As for his game, he can do everything on the court. Alcaraz’s forehand is fresh and magnificent. Watch for Djokovic to go after Alcaraz’s forehand. Djokovic went after Sinner’s forehand in the semifinals with solid results.
Alcaraz needs some luck on the grass court and a disruptive game against Djokovic. Advance. Use your backhand. Alcaraz’s net game has been improving in each game. Medvedev said that the man who wins Wimbledon brings the serve. Alcaraz can play his amazing game, but his serve is the most important part of the match.
Bill Connelly: Stay relaxed before the game! In the first five sets that Alcaraz played against Djokovic, he won three of them and matched the level of the legend almost every time. We know Alcaraz is bold and fast, we know how hard he can hit a tennis ball, and as he constantly reminded us against Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals, we know he can be brutally accurate, too. Alcaraz changes the dimensions of the field, and this last month he has shown us that he, too, is quickly becoming aware of life on the grass field.
We also know that, as with Djokovic early in his own career, Alcaraz’s body sometimes pushes its limits. He had to battle through some injuries and of course suffered a significant cramp in the tension of the moment against Djokovic in the French Open semifinals. If Alcaraz is able to play his game and play with maximum physicality, he absolutely could give Djokovic a challenge.
tom hamilton: In addition to doing everything possible to avoid the cramp that derailed him at Roland Garros, Alcaraz has to take his mind off the man in front of him on Sunday. Djokovic lives rent-free on the heads of most of his competitors. Alcaraz is certainly a fan of Djokovic and has talked about studying how he moves on the pitch, but he is also very familiar with the domain he faces.
Moments after Alcaraz won at Queen’s in June, he rattled off Djokovic’s Wimbledon record: Djokovic had won 86 matches at that point, more than the rest of the top 20 combined. This is the scale of the task facing Alcaraz on Sunday. He needs to ignore that, focus on what he’s accomplished in the last two weeks and start off right. If he does, Alcaraz can upset the most dominant force in men’s tennis.
D’Arcy Maine: Eat a big meal, drink lots of water and watch the practice footage your dad took of Djokovic this week? I joke, I joke.
It’s impossible not to think back to their semifinal meeting at the French Open last month here and point out the obvious: Alcaraz will need to stay as calm and relaxed as possible ahead of this match. Alcaraz played two incredibly competitive sets in Paris against Djokovic before cramping up from the tension and nerves he was feeling. His team is more than aware of this and will hopefully use whatever strategies they have to prevent the same situation from happening again, including working with his sports psychologist.
During his press conference on Friday, Alcaraz said that he would do some mental exercises before the game “to forget that I am going to play a final against Novak.” If he can at least stay healthy throughout the match and, in turn, he can play his kind of athletic tennis throughout the match, he will have a chance.
Alyssa Roenigk: Remember the final shot of Alcaraz’s semifinal on Friday, in which Medvedev lured him into the net and delivered a lightning cross forehand? Shots like that won’t hurt. Djokovic is the best mover in the game and certainly the best on the grass, so clever shots won’t work against him at the rate they did against Medvedev. Alcaraz will need to be creative and willing to adapt as the game progresses.
To that end, it would help to start better. Alcaraz has been tight in his first sets here and if he doesn’t come out on Sunday, Djokovic will be up a set before he knows it. But let’s also be real. No one has answered this question correctly in six years. A victory for Alcaraz would be a big surprise.
What can Djokovic do to defeat Alcaraz?
Shriver: Djokovic has not lost a match on Center Court in the last 10 years. His tactical, technical and mental approach makes him the longest prime time of his career. The aura that Djokovic brings to the court is as great as that of any other tennis player.
Stevenson: Djokovic will use his vast tools, and his 23 Grand Slams in his pocket, to keep Alcaraz on edge. Djokovic is the master of offense and defense, taking down his opponent. He likes to play the villain, taking on the crowd cheering for his opponent and winning the prize at the end.
Connelly: On a macro level, there’s the general advice to “persevere, stretch the points, adapt, force Alcaraz to play at his highest level for four hours.” At the micro level, I think it’s simpler: get your first serve. Alcaraz devoured Djokovic’s second serve in their French Open match; while Djokovic normally wins around 57% of second serve points from him (56% against top 10 opponents), he had 43% against Alcaraz in Paris, and that includes even the two blown sets. He faced 10 break points in those first two sets and created just five of them on Alcaraz’s serve. Granted, he saved eight out of 10 because he’s Novak Djokovic, but he was under a lot of pressure. That could happen again if he’s giving Alcaraz a lot of second serves.
Hamilton: Djokovic doesn’t need to mix things up, he knows every blade of grass on Center Court. The stats are downright ridiculous and his dominance shows no signs of waning. Even the unexpected “hurdle” call didn’t make him nervous against Jannik Sinner on Friday. So for Djokovic, it’s the same thing he’s always done. He’ll use the crowd his way: if he feels they’re backing Alcaraz, he’ll use them for fuel. If he listens to any naysayers, he’ll channel that slight into his game. This is his court and he just needs to stick with what has served him so well.
Maine: Exactly what he has done throughout the tournament, all season and in every game since 2018 at the All England Club. it’s perfection without notes Djokovic essentially has everything going for him going into this match, starting with experience. He’ll have to rely on that and the unflappable mental maturity he’s shown of late to help him stay focused and play his best game, even during Alcaraz’s most mind-blowing and noteworthy points or if the crowd isn’t necessarily on his side. . . During Alcaraz’s lone win over Djokovic, in Madrid in 2022, Djokovic squandered three break chances to serve for the match in the second set and will have to limit those moments of weakness or lapses because Alcaraz could take advantage of that vulnerability.
Ronigk: The last time Djokovic lost a match at Wimbledon, Alcaraz was 14 years old and playing junior tennis. This is Djokovic’s 35th Grand Slam singles final and Alcaraz’s second. If Djokovic needs to rely on anything other than his vastly improved service game and better feet on the pitch, it’s his big-match experience, decade-long domination of Center Court and the space he’s certainly taking up in the table. Alcaraz head. Djokovic is playing as well as ever on all surfaces and whatever his game plan is, you need to stick to it. He can’t get carried away with Alcaraz’s game if he finds himself behind the 20-year-old too soon.
Who will win?
Shriver: Djokovic will win his 24th Grand Slam title on Sunday and then move on to the US Open with the calendar year’s Grand Slam on the line.
Stevenson: Djokovic could win. He could get 24. However, I am rooting for Alcaraz to thwart Djokovic’s plan. If Alcaraz can control the center of the court as much as possible with his forehand, and bring serve and make points from him, we will have a 20-year-old winning the Wimbledon Championships Trophy.
Connelly: “Beating Djokovic to the best of five” is practically the only test that Alcaraz has not overcome in the last two years. He has the game for it, he has the game for absolutely anything, but the mental game will always favor Djokovic, and well, I never bet against a streak. Djokovic has won 34 straight matches at Wimbledon, and I won’t pick him to lose one until he reminds us that he can do it. Djokovic in 4.
Hamilton: This has the hallmarks of being a true Wimbledon epic. Alcaraz will be the dominant force in men’s tennis for the next decade, but this is still Djokovic’s arena. Djokovic can afford the odd momentary slip-up and still come out on top: he’s that good. I expect the two to trade sets, but Djokovic will walk away and close it out in four, setting up another Grand Slam shot on the calendar.
Maine: While Alcaraz’s game has improved dramatically in a matter of weeks on grass, it is hard to see him being able to stop Djokovic on this surface in a tournament where he has achieved so much success and been so dominant. Djokovic wins the major No. 24 in four sets.
Ronigk: Nobody would bet against Djokovic in a Wimbledon final, especially considering the way he is playing right now. Alcaraz will need to play error-free tennis like he did in the last two sets against Holger Rune. Last May, Alcaraz found a way to beat Djokovic in Madrid. But that was on clay in a best-of-three format. Beating the 23-time best-of-five tennis slam winner on Center Court is an entirely different challenge and will require emotional and physical stamina and a lot of faith. Alcaraz said that he will do everything possible to forget that he is playing a final against Djokovic. Djokovic will do everything possible to remind him.