Novak Djokovic outlasts Carlos Alcaraz for Cincinnati title

MASON, OH — Novak Djokovic overcame a match point and stifled the heat to defeat world number one Carlos Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) and win the Cincinnati Open in a thrilling match. Sunday.

Djokovic fell on his back before tearing his shirt after winning the match that lasted nearly four hours to win his third title in Cincinnati and avenge his loss to Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final last month.

“This was one of the exciting matches I’ve played in any tournament,” said Djokovic, winner of 23 men’s Grand Slam titles, during the trophy presentation after the match. “It felt like a major tournament.”

With temperatures nearing 90 degrees, the 36-year-old Djokovic survived the tournament’s longest men’s match since at least 1990 to become the oldest player to win the tournament. Ken Rosewall was 35 when he won in 1970.

At 3 hours 49 minutes, the match was the longest best-of-three-set final in ATP Tour history (since 1990).

The Serb looked stumped by the heavy dampness at the end of the first set and could barely move when Alcaraz hit a backhand to claim the opener.

Alcaraz, who looked fresh despite being on the court for more than 10 hours this week, built up a 4-2 lead in the second set and it looked like the Spanish superstar might reach the finish line.

But Alcaraz would produce a terrible service game while leading 4-3 that included four unforced errors to give life to World No. 2.

In the second set tiebreak, Djokovic saved a championship point and went on to force a deciding set after winning a 25-shot rally.

During the break before the third set, a frustrated Alcaraz slammed his hand into the plastic drink container next to his chair, requiring a medical timeout to tape his finger.

In the deciding game, Djokovic broke up his fifth chance of the match to take a 4-3 lead.

The drama would continue as Djokovic squandered two match points as he came back to lead 5-3.

Alcaraz would save two more match points and break serve when Djokovic missed an overhead volley for 5-5.

The players eventually reached another tiebreaker, which Djokovic won when the 20-year-old’s forehand went wide.

The win was Djokovic’s 95th career title and 39th Masters 1000 title.

“I have a lot to say, but I’m not sure I have the energy,” Djokovic said, embracing his title. Stop and look at Alcaraz.

“You never give up, right?” He said. “I like that about you. I hope we meet in New York. That would be fun—well, for the fans, not for me.”

The US Open begins on August 28. And Alcaraz, the defending champion, ensures the No. 1 stays headed to the championship.

“It was a very close match,” Alcaraz said. “I’ll be back later.”

Sunday’s meeting was the fourth between Djokovic and Alcaraz, with each player winning two matches.

“The feeling I get on the field reminds me a bit of when I was playing [Rafael] “Nadal when we were in our prime,” said Djokovic, who ahead of the Spaniard on the all-time men’s grand slam list after winning Roland Garros in June. Every point is a hustle. Every point is a battle. You basically have to earn every point, every shot, no matter the conditions.”

Djokovic likened Sunday’s marathon match to the 2012 Australian Open final, when he defeated Nadal in 5 hours and 53 minutes.

“I don’t think I’ve played many matches like this in my life,” Djokovic told reporters. “You just have to throw your hats on to a guy like that. He plays very maturely, and he handles pressure very well for a 20-year-old.

“We can’t forget how young he is. That’s something admirable about him.”

“It’s great to hear this stuff from Novak,” Alcaraz said. [who] Play iconic matches, recorded matches. It means me and our team, we’re doing great, we’re on a good path.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.