The matchup we’ve all been waiting for is on Sunday: No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 2 Novak Djokovic. If Djokovic wins, he’ll set the record for the most Grand Slam titles of the Open era. If Alcaraz takes the title, it’ll be his second major win and a huge 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 vs. Djokovic, who is compiling the greatest resume in tennis history. We often talk about how important the intangibles are, but never have they been more important than this match. Alcaraz has the power, variety, mobility and mentality to beat Djokovic, if the 20-year-old can manage the occasion. Obviously to beat Djokovic over 5 sets, a player needs to play well in all aspects of the game. It feels a little too early in Alcaraz’s career for him to beat Djokovic. It took Nadal a few tries to beat Federer on grass.
Bill Connelly: Stay loose before the match! Over the first five sets that Alcaraz played against Djokovic, he won three of them and matched the legend’s level almost the whole time. We know Alcaraz is bold and fast, we know how hard he can hit a tennis ball, and, as he reminded us constantly against Daniil Medvedev in the semis, we know he can be brutally accurate as well. Alcaraz changes the dimensions of the court, and this last month has shown us that he’s quickly figuring out grass-court life, too.
We also know that, as with Djokovic early in his own career, Alcaraz’s body hits its limits sometimes. He’s had to battle through some injuries, and of course he cramped up significantly in the tension of the moment against Djokovic in the French Open semis. If Alcaraz is able to play his game and play with peak physicality, he could absolutely give Djokovic a challenge.
Tom Hamilton: Other than doing all he can to avoid the cramp which derailed him in Roland Garros, Alcaraz has to park any thoughts of the man opposite him Sunday. Djokovic lives rent-free in most of his competitors’ heads. Alcaraz is certainly an admirer of Djokovic and has talked about studying how he moves on grass, but he also knows full well the dominance he’s up against.
Moments after Alcaraz won at Queen’s in June, he recited Djokovic’s Wimbledon record — Djokovic had won 86 matches at that point, more than the rest of the top 20 put together. This is the scale of the task facing Alcaraz on Sunday. He needs to ignore that, focus on what he’s managed to achieve over the past fortnight and start well. If he does, Alcaraz can upset the most dominant force in men’s tennis.
D’Arcy Maine: Eat a hearty meal, drink a lot of water and watch the practice footage his dad shot of Djokovic this week? I kid, I kid.
It’s impossible to not think about their semifinal meeting at the French Open just last month here and point out the obvious: Alcaraz will have to stay as calm and relaxed as possible entering this match. Alcaraz played two incredibly competitive sets in Paris against Djokovic before cramping due to the tension and nerves he felt. His team is more than aware of this and they will hopefully be utilizing every strategy they have to prevent the same situation from happening again, including working with his sports psychologist.
During his press conference Friday, Alcaraz said he would do some mental exercises ahead of the match “to forget that I’m going to play a final against Novak.” If he can at least stay healthy throughout the match, and can in turn play his brand of athletic tennis throughout, he will have a chance.
Alyssa Roenigk: Remember the final shot of Alcaraz’s semifinal Friday, the one where Medvedev drew him to the net and he whipped a lightning crosscourt forehand winner? Shots like that won’t hurt. Djokovic is the best mover in the game and certainly the best on grass, so crafty drop shots aren’t going to work against him at the rate they did against Medvedev. Alcaraz will need to be creative and willing to adapt as the match progresses.
To that end, it’d help to start better. Alcaraz has been tight in his first sets here and if he doesn’t come out swinging Sunday, Djokovic will be up a set before he knows it. But let’s also be real. No one has answered this question properly in six years. An Alcaraz win would be a major upset.
What can Djokovic do to defeat Alcaraz?
Shriver: Djokovic has not lost a match on Centre Court in the past 10 years. His tactical, technical and mental approach adds up to him having the longest prime time of a career. The aura Djokovic carries to the court is as large as any other tennis player ever.
Connelly: On a macro level, there’s the general “persevere, stretch points out, adapt, force Alcaraz to play at his highest level for four hours” advice. On the micro level, I think it’s simpler: Land your first serve. Alcaraz devoured Djokovic’s second serve in their French Open match; while Djokovic typically wins about 57% of his second-serve points (56% against top-10 opponents), he was at 43% against Alcaraz in Paris, and that even includes the two blowout sets. He faced 10 break points in those first two sets while creating only five of them on Alcaraz’s serve. Granted, he saved eight of the 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 Centre Court. The stats are frankly ridiculous, and his dominance is showing no signs of slowing up. Even the unexpected “hindrance” call didn’t unnerve him against Jannik Sinner on Friday. So for Djokovic, it’s the same as he’s always done. He’ll use the crowd in his own way — if he feels them backing Alcaraz, he’ll use that as fuel. If hears any detractors, he’ll channel that slight into his play. This is his court and he just needs to stick to what has served him so well.
Maine: Exactly what he’s done all tournament, and all season, and in every match since 2018 at the All England Club. It’s perfection. No notes. Djokovic has essentially everything going for him heading into this match, starting with experience. He will need to rely on that and the unflappable mental maturity he’s demonstrated of late to help him stay focused and play his best match, even during Alcaraz’s most mind-blowing and highlight-worthy points or if the crowd isn’t necessarily on his side. During Alcaraz’s only win over Djokovic, in Madrid in 2022, Djokovic squandered three break opportunities to serve for the match in the second set and he will have to limit such moments of weakness or lapses because Alcaraz could seize on such vulnerability.
Roenigk: The last time Djokovic lost a match at Wimbledon, Alcaraz was 14 and playing junior tennis. This is Djokovic’s record 35th Grand Slam singles final and Alcaraz’s second. If Djokovic needs to lean on anything other than his vastly improved service game and the best feet on grass, it’s his experience in big matches, decade-long domination of Centre Court and the space he is certainly taking up in Alcaraz’s head. Djokovic is playing as well as he ever has on every surface and, whatever his game plan, he needs to stick to it. He can’t let himself be drawn into Alcaraz’s game if he finds himself trailing the 20-year-old early.
Who will win?
Shriver: Djokovic will win his 24th major title on Sunday, then move onto the US Open with the calendar year Grand Slam in play.
Connelly: “Beat Djokovic in a best-of-five” is pretty much the only test Alcaraz hasn’t passed over the last two years. He’s got the game for it — he’s got the game for absolutely anything — but the mental game is always going to favor Djokovic, and hey, I’m never one to bet against a streak. Djokovic has won 34 straight matches at Wimbledon, and I’m not going to pick him to lose one until he reminds us that he can. Djokovic in 4.
Hamilton: This has the hallmarks of being a true Wimbledon epic. Alcaraz will be the ruling force in men’s tennis for the next decade, but this is still Djokovic’s stage. Djokovic can allow himself to have the odd momentary slip and still come through — he’s that good. I expect the two to exchange sets but Djokovic to pull away and close it out in four, prompting yet another chance at a calendar Grand Slam.
Maine: While Alcaraz’s game has dramatically improved in just a matter of weeks on grass, it’s hard to see him being able to stop Djokovic on this surface at a tournament in which he has achieved so much success and has been so dominant. Djokovic wins major No. 24 in four sets.
Roenigk: No one would bet against Djokovic in a Wimbledon final, especially considering the way he is playing right now. Alcaraz will need to play mistake-free tennis like he did in the final 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 Slam winner in best-of-five tennis at Centre Court is an entirely different challenge and will require emotional and physical endurance and a ton of belief. Alcaraz said he will do his best to forget he is playing in a final against Djokovic. Djokovic will do all he can to remind him.