Novak Djokovic in ugly scenes as crowd fumes over petulant act

Elite tennis is all about composure, with Novak Djokovic pushed to breaking point by Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic smashes his racquet on the net post in the Wimbledon final.
Novak Djokovic smashed his racquet on the net post after losing a break point in the decisive fifth set against Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final. Pictures: Wimbledon/Getty Images

Time and time again, Novak Djokovic has seen off a new generation of challengers as he storms towards the men's all-time record for grand slam victories. However in the final at the All-England club against Carlos Alcaraz, the Serbian superstar finally met his match.

The 36-year-old's frustration was palpable as Alcaraz simply refused to break, with Djokovic eventually losing his composure and smashing his racquet against the net pole after the Spaniard secured an early break in the decisive fifth set. There had been hints of such frustration earlier in the match, when Djokovic let rip at the umpire after being called for a time violation in the second set.

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It was a far cry from what looked like it could have been a typically dominant performance from Djokovic, after the Serb took the first set in convincing fashion, 6-1. However Alcaraz showed in the second set that he wasn't planning on going down without a fight, eventually winning the set in a tiebreak before turning the tables to win the third set 6-1.

Djokovic bounced back to level the match at two sets apiece, but it was Alcaraz who kept his composure in the decisive fifth. An early break was the tipping point, with Djokovic unleashing his frustration on his racquet before the Spaniard went on to claim a 1-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 win in just under five hours of play.

Bitterly disappointed after the match, Djokovic nonetheless gave full credit to Alcaraz, who he initially didn't believe would be able to trouble him on grass in the same way he had on clay and hard courts previously. The last time Djokovic was defeated on Wimbledon's centre court was against Andy Murray in 2013 - a 10-year streak finally broken.

“Good afternoon everyone. Not so good for me, but good for Carlos,” Djokovic said in his speech after the thrilling final.

“I thought I’d only have trouble with you on clay and hard court, not grass. But it’s a different story from this year. Congrats, an amazing way to adapt to the surface.

“You never like to lose matches like this. I guess when all the emotions are settled I have to still be very grateful.”

Djokovic's testy relationship with the Wimbledon crowd continued in the final, with the former world No.1 copping some boos after a lengthy toilet break following the third set. He showed plenty of willingness to silence the crowd in previous matches, but couldn't find another bit of magic to do it once more against Alcaraz.

Carlos Alcaraz victory over Djokovic heralds new age for tennis

In turn, Alcaraz said he hoped his victory would herald the beginning of the much-vaunted next generation of tennis stars, after years of grand slam dominance from Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. While Djokovic will be around for some years to come yet, the absence of Nadal and retirement of Federer has well and truly opened the door.

"I did it for myself, not for tennis generation. It was great," Alcaraz said.

"Beating Novak at his best, in this stage, making history, being the guy to beat him after 10 years unbeaten on that court, is amazing for me. It's great for the new generation, as well, to see me beating him and making them think that they are capable to do it as well."

For more than a decade, a number of talented 'next gen' players had been hyped to break the Djokovic-Nadal-Federer hold on men's tennis.

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates after winning the 2023 Wimbledon men's title.
Carlos Alcaraz ended the decade-long hold on Wimbledon that the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have boasted over the years. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

All that talk amounted to little as the big three maintained their vice-like grip on the slams, having won 65 majors between them dating back to Federer's first Wimbledon triumph in 2003. Against that backdrop, Alcaraz managed to prove he was the real deal when he won his first major at last year's US Open and then ascended to the top of the ATP rankings.

But as he did not have to face either Djokovic or Nadal during that run, question marks remained about how he would go up against the all-time greats in a best-of-five-sets showdown. "I am a totally different player than at the French Open," said Alcaraz, who became the youngest Wimbledon champion since 18-year-old Boris Becker won the title in 1986.

"I grew up a lot since that moment. I learned a lot from that moment. I didn't get down, I didn't give up. I fought until the last ball."

While Alcaraz celebrated becoming the first man other than Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Andy Murray to win Wimbledon since 2002, the triumph took on extra significance as he did it by beating the player who has won a record number of men's slams.

"Beating Novak, winning the Wimbledon championship is something that I dreamed about since I started playing tennis," he said. "It's the happiest moment of my life."

With AAP

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