Carlos Alcaraz and the best of the rest at Wimbledon

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LONDON — Carlos Alcaraz was not supposed to win Wimbledon.

Not yet anyway.

Despite Alcaraz being the No. 1 seed, it was Novak Djokovic, the seven-time champion and winner of the past four at the All England Club, who had been all but declared the victor due to his dominance on grass and titles at both prior majors this year. A win for Djokovic, which would have tied him with Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam titles in history at 24, seemed all but certain.

But it wasn’t to Alcaraz. And Sunday, with all of the eyes of Centre Court on him, including British and Spanish royalty and a slew of Hollywood A-listers, the 20-year-old Spaniard claimed his second Grand Slam title and first at Wimbledon with a 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Djokovic.

Playing in just the fourth grass-court tournament of his career, Alcaraz made up for his lack of experience on the surface with a staggering display of athleticism and mental maturity, dazzling the crowd with each mind-blowing point after the next.

At the end of the 4-hour, 42-minute match, Alcaraz fell to the ground in shock and rolled over with his hands on his head before running over — and up through the crowd — to celebrate with his box.

“It’s incredible,” Alcaraz said on the court moments later. “A dream come true to be able to play on these stages. It’s amazing for a boy, 20 years old, to reach these situations really fast. I’m really proud of myself and really proud of the team that I have and the work that we put in every day to be able to live this experience.”

With the win, Alcaraz will retain the world No. 1 ranking and will attempt to defend his US Open title at the year’s final major when it gets underway in August.

While Alcaraz was the one lifting the trophy Sunday, he was far from the only player who had a triumphant fortnight. Here are seven other men whose success in London shows big promise for the future.

It was unclear what to expect from Medvedev. He had a career-best result of the fourth round at the All England Club, and he was unable to participate in 2022 due to the ban on Russian and Belarusian players. Not to mention, he had lost in his first-round match at the French Open in a stunner and had a 2-2 record on grass during his two lead-in events. But the 27-year-old reminded everyone why he remains one of the best players in the world, no matter the surface, with a semifinal run.

Sure, he never defeated a seeded player, and he lost in straight sets to Alcaraz in the semis, but he was ultimately pleased with his performance during the fortnight.

“It’s my best Wimbledon so far,” Medvedev said. “Normally on grass I didn’t feel amazing. These two weeks I felt great. I’m trying usually after the losses to find the positives. I was in four best players of the tournament, together with amazing players: Jannik, Novak and Carlos …

“It’s great to prove that again and again I can be in the deepest stages of the biggest tournaments. But I will be disappointed with the loss. The only thing I can say to myself is next time, try better. Try to win a Slam next time. Try to beat Alcaraz or whoever else next time. That’s the only way till you finish your career.”

Chris Eubanks

The only American man to reach the quarterfinals and perhaps the story of the tournament, the 27-year-old Atlanta native and Georgia Tech alum had a dream run in his Wimbledon main draw debut all the way into the last eight. Arriving in London just hours after winning the first ATP title of his career at Mallorca, Eubanks’ momentum catapulted him well into the second week with notable wins over No. 12 seed and British favorite Cameron Norrie and No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. He ultimately lost in five sets against Medvedev in the quarterfinals, but not before earning countless new fans with his joyful attitude and fearless play.

Having just cracked the top 100 for the first time earlier this year, Eubanks leaves London ranked No. 31 in the world and with more self-belief than ever.

“I’ve played some of the best players in the world,” Eubanks said after the quarterfinal loss. “I’ve seen how my game stacks up against them, how I can disrupt them, how I can frustrate them … I think it just gives me added confidence in my ability that I know I can compete with some of the best players in the world, whereas maybe I didn’t fully know or believe that before.”

The other 20-year-old rising superstar on the ATP Tour reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinals in just his second time playing the event. The world No. 6 dug deep to pull out back-to-back wins over seeded players Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Grigor Dimitrov before ultimately falling to Alcaraz in straight sets.

While he certainly still isn’t on the same level as Alcaraz — his childhood doubles partner — just yet, the future is definitely bright for Rune and he’ll look to reach his third consecutive major quarterfinal, or beyond, at the US Open later this summer.

Entering the fortnight, the 21-year-old Sinner had reached the quarterfinals at every major, but had never advanced beyond the round at any of those events. That changed this week when Sinner stormed through his quarter of the draw and dropped just two sets en route to his first semifinals. He lost to Djokovic, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4), on Friday and wasn’t pleased with his performance but vowed to use the experience to better himself.

“It’s for sure [a] tough day, but I’m going to learn [from] this and hopefully I can improve,” Sinner said after the loss.

And, while he didn’t win the tournament or reach the final, Sinner easily wins the contest for the best fans thanks to his devoted Carota Boys.

Playing in just the fifth major of his career, and in his first main draw appearance at Wimbledon, the 25-year-old had a stunning run to the quarterfinals. Having previously never advanced past the second round at a Grand Slam, Safiullin defeated far more experienced players, including Roberto Bautista Agut and Denis Shapovalov before losing to Sinner. He opened play ranked No. 92 and leaves with a new career high of No. 43 — and he immediately recognized just how beneficial the rankings boost could be for him going forward.

“So I should get in to Masters [1000-level events] and many more tournaments this year, next year,” he said following the loss to Sinner. “This is very good opportunity for me to play main draw, not playing quallies on many tournaments, [and to] show my best tennis as I show here.

“Many tournaments before, like when you’re ranked 100 or 115, then you have to pass through [qualifying]. It’s like two or three rounds. Grand Slam is three rounds. In ATP tournament it is two rounds. Still you spend energy. When you come playing fresh, especially Grand Slam for five sets, then it makes [a] difference.”

It’s been a rough stretch for the 2021 Wimbledon finalist. He missed Wimbledon last season after testing positive for COVID, lost in a five-set heartbreaker against Andy Murray in the first round at the Australian Open this year, missed most of the clay season this year due to injury and was able to play in just one warmup match on grass. But he got things back on track this year at the All England Club. Unseeded and with low expectations, Berrettini defeated two top-20 seeds (Alex de Minaur, Alexander Zverev) and made it to the fourth round. He eventually lost to Alcaraz in four sets but he could immediately find positives even in his disappointment after the match.

“Right now it’s tough to say it was a good tournament. I know it was,” Berrettini said. “Probably in a few hours, a few days, I’m going to appreciate even more what I did. I really thought about not playing two days before the tournament. So being in the fourth round and losing like this against Carlos, it’s something I have to be proud of.”

Tokito Oda

On Sunday, the 17-year-old won the men’s wheelchair title and became the youngest male champion — in any singles division — in Wimbledon history. Defeating Alfie Hewett in the final 6-4, 6-2, Oda claimed his second major trophy after winning his first at the French Open just last month. Despite beating the beloved home favorite, Oda, of Japan, won over everyone in the stands at No. 1 Court with his age-appropriate admission about his celebration plans.

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