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Djokovic outlasts Alcaraz to win instant-classic final in Cincinnati

Matthew Stockman / Getty Images Sport / Getty

MASON, Ohio (AP) — Novak Djokovic outlasted Carlos Alcaraz in a thrilling rematch of their Wimbledon final, winning 5-7 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) on Sunday to take the Western & Southern Open.

In a match that lasted 3 hours, 49 minutes, the longest best-of-three sets final in ATP Tour history (since 1990), the No. 2-seeded Djokovic avenged his loss last month to the top-ranked Alcaraz and earned his 95th career title, passing Ivan Lendl for third among men in the professional era, dating to 1968.

Djokovic was playing his first tournament on U.S. soil in two years because of COVID-19 restrictions. He secured his third Cincinnati championship in six years on his fifth match point when Alcaraz went wide with a forehand return.

The 36-year-old Serbian fell on his back, arms and legs spread, before heading to the net to shake hands with his Spanish opponent. He then strutted around the court and ripped his shirt apart from the buttons on down.

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

With temperatures hovering near 90 degrees, Djokovic survived the tournament’s longest men’s match since at least 1990 to become the oldest man to win the championship. Ken Rosewall was 35 when he won in 1970.

The rematch of Alcaraz’s five-set victory at Wimbledon broke the previous Cincinnati record of 2 hours, 49 minutes, set in 2010 as Roger Federer was beating Mardy Fish. It’s the longest three-set match on the men’s tour this season by three minutes.

“I have so much to say, but I’m not sure that I have the energy,” Djokovic said, cradling his trophy. He paused and looked at Alcaraz.

“You never give up, do you?” he said. “I love that about you. I hope we meet in New York. That would be fun – well, for the fans, not for me.”

The U.S. Open begins Aug. 28. Alcaraz, the defending champion, is guaranteed to remain No. 1 heading into the tournament.

The tiebreakers were Alcaraz’s fourth and fifth in four matches during the week. He went three sets in every match, while Djokovic didn’t drop a set until Sunday.

“The match was pretty close,” Alcaraz said. “I’ll be back.”


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