Alcaraz and Medvedev come full circle but Djokovic still looks immovable | Wimbledon 2023

new balance

It has been two years since Carlos Alcaraz took his first timid steps on the lawns of the All England Club as a professional. He was 18 then and, although he was not quite able to enter the tournament directly with his ranking, the promise he had demonstrated in his first trips to the Australian and French Opens had yielded a wildcard into the Wimbledon main draw.

In his first professional match on grass he barely survived a lucky loser, Yasutaka Uchiyama. Two days later Alcaraz faced Daniil Medvedev.

“He was much less mature and younger, which is normal,” the Russian said on Wednesday. “He was missing. Everyone saw that he’s amazing, but everyone was wondering is he going to find the way to miss less [while] producing the same power. And he did quite fast. That’s what’s pretty amazing.”

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Their contest ended in an easy 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win for the Russian. Friday’s semi-finals will mark a full-circle moment. Having flitted up the rankings, establishing himself as a grand slam champion and the current world No 1, Alcaraz will compete for his first Wimbledon final against Medvedev, the third seed.

The self-belief that drives Alcaraz on and off the court since his emergence has been clear. He has achieved so much success so quickly, breaking age records and leaving his rivals in the dust, and his goals have subsequently changed. He once aimed to win grand slam titles and reach world No 1; now he aims to become one of the greatest in the history of his sport.

Still, this run and its swiftness, from winning Queen’s to breezing through five matches in a row at Wimbledon, has surprised even the 20-year-old. The speed of his adaptation further underlines his ability and his possession of a game so varied that it can adapt to all surfaces. He has shown that the hype that follows him, deafening as it is, does so for very good reason.

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The pair have played only once since that initial meeting, this year in the final of Indian Wells. That match featured one of Alcaraz’s most remarkable performances so far as he dismantled his opponent, who was bursting with confidence on a 19-match winning streak, 6-3 6-2. Medvedev insists the grass will provide a completely different match-up.

Daniil Medvedev in action during his second-round victory against Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon in 2021
‘Everyone saw that he’s amazing’: Daniil Medvedev in action against Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon in 2021. The Russian won but was impressed by his young opponent. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

“I think Indian Wells is not going to count a lot here,” said Medvedev. “So slow, Indian Wells. I mean, it’s not going to be the same. Wimbledon, the ball bounces lower. The serve is more important. There, I felt like I couldn’t get free points with the serve.”

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The surface will certainly allow Medvedev to extract more out of his serve, and he has served exceptionally well during periods this week. His own improvement on grass, as on clay, has been deeply impressive. But in Indian Wells Alcaraz picked apart Medvedev’s typical deep-return stance and court positioning with a frenzy of serve and volley attempts, net rushes, drop shots and relentless aggression. Such an approach is only more lethal on grass.

The pair will do battle knowing that they could potentially be playing for a spot against Novak Djokovic, the second seed. After 11 days of tennis, nothing has changed. The defending champion and seven-time winner remains the heavy favourite even among the most difficult group of challengers he could face in the later rounds.

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Skupski and Koolhof reach men’s doubles final


In the past couple of years, Neal Skupski has made a name for himself as a mixed doubles specialist, having won the title here in 2021 and 2022, partnering the American, Desirae Krawczyk. What he wants now is to get is hands on the men’s title and on Thursday he put himself within one win of doing it as he and Wesley Koolhof, his Dutch partner, beat Matt Ebden, half of last year’s winning pairing, and Rohan Bopanna of India 7-5, 6-4. The top seeds will play Marcel Granollers of Spain and the Argentinian Horacio Zeballos in the final.

Skupski is the first Briton, excluding wheelchair participants, to reach a final in three straight years at Wimbledon since Dorothy Round in 1937. “It’s always nice to have a Brit in at the end of the tournament at Wimbledon,” he said. “It’s been luckily myself the last couple of years with the mixed doubles. But this is the one we want. It’s the one we’ve been training for. This is for me the pinnacle achievement if we were able to get over the line. But there’s still a tough match ahead of us.”

As streaks go, this one is going to take some beating. The British men’s wheelchair doubles pairing of Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid duly reached their 16th consecutive grand slam final together on Thursday as they beat Gustavo Fernández of Argentina and Martín de la Puente of Spain 7-5, 6-3.

In another illustration of just why they have established themselves as the world’s best doubles pair – in any discipline – the No 1 seeds won a tight first set and then eased through the second to put themselves one win away from a fifth Wimbledon title together. They will play Japan’s Takuya Miki and Tokito Oda in the final. Simon Cambers

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Despite his lack of experience on grass, Jannik Sinner – who will face Djokovic in the semi-finals – has grown on the surface, reaching the quarter-finals for the first time last year. His destructive, clean and beautifully timed ground strokes, his relentless aggression and love of pace are naturally rewarded on grass.

In that quarter-final last year Sinner played some of the best tennis of his life to lead by two sets, only for Djokovic to flip the match around and win in five. The Italian has the weapons to hit through Djokovic and make him uncomfortable, but the ease of the 36-year-old’s recovery was in some ways even more dispiriting than a straight-sets defeat.

Despite finally reaching a long-awaited first grand slam semi-final this week, Sinner has done so with a startlingly easy draw. He has not faced a top 50 player yet; his highest-ranked opponent was the No 79, Quentin Halys, in the third round, who snatched a set from him. Now the 21-year-old must step up against the best player in the world on a court he has not lost on for a decade.

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