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Quest for a Lasting Duel: Djokovic vs. Alcaraz

 Quest for a Lasting Duel: Djokovic vs. Alcaraz

Djokovic vs. Alcaraz Wimbledon
Djokovic vs. Alcaraz Wimbledon(Image-Getty)

Novak Djokovic was still coming to terms with losing his Wimbledon title to Carlos Alcaraz when a reporter posed a question about the potential for a significant rivalry between them. Djokovic, despite being at the pinnacle of his career, is 36 years old and aware that his record-breaking journey is nearing its end. With a touch of irony, Djokovic replied, "I hope so, for my own sake. He will be on the tour for quite a while. As for me, I am uncertain about my longevity."

Over the past couple of decades, Djokovic's rivalries with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray have mesmerized the sport. However, given his age, it seems unlikely that he will be able to develop a similar rivalry with Alcaraz. Hence, their five-set duel on Sunday should be cherished.

Djokovic has faced Federer 50 times, including 17 Grand Slam matches, and Nadal on 59 occasions, with 18 of those encounters at majors. He has also played Murray 36 times, with 10 of those matches taking place at the Grand Slam level. In contrast, he has only faced the 20-year-old Alcaraz three times thus far.

While the prospect of another clash at the U.S. Open in a few weeks is exhilarating, it remains questionable whether the 23-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic can sustain his career long enough to regularly battle Alcaraz. "Facing each other in five-hour, five-set thrillers between the top two players in the world is great for the sport. It couldn't be better for tennis in general, so why not?" Djokovic expressed.

However, the reality is that world number one Alcaraz might not have a genuine rival, especially among the current crop of Next Gen players who seem far behind the Spanish prodigy. "Who will match this youngster in the next few years?" remarked 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash after Alcaraz ended Djokovic's 34-match winning streak at the grass court tournament.

Hopefully, Alcaraz's rapid rise will inspire others in his age group, much like Federer and Nadal inspired Djokovic to become the player he is today. Italian player Jannik Sinner, 21, defeated Alcaraz at last year's Wimbledon but has only reached one Grand Slam semi-final so far, where he lost to Djokovic in straight sets last week. Denmark's Holger Rune, the new world number four at the age of 20, possesses both the game and personality to form a rivalry with his former junior sparring partner Alcaraz. Another promising player is Italian Lorenzo Musetti, 21, who has the potential to step up.

However, for the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, Casper Ruud, and Andrey Rublev – players who were expected to fill the void after the departure of the "big three" – they have watched Alcaraz soar past them. Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion, was outplayed by Alcaraz in the Wimbledon semi-final, lasting less than two hours on Centre Court.

While professional sports are full of surprises, those claiming that Alcaraz will dominate the sport for the next decade or more should reconsider. Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal often mention the motivation they drew from each other as they raised the bar higher and higher. Together, they amassed 65 Grand Slam titles. It is hoped that Alcaraz finds a few adversaries who can share the burden as tennis ushers in a new era.

"I believe he has already taken Sinner with him, and he will take Holger Rune along too, although Holger Rune may not have fully grasped the idea yet," remarked seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander to Reuters. "Roger made Novak and Rafa think, 'Hey, this guy isn't going to hand us anything; we have to go out and seize it.' I think Carlos can definitely be that person."

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