Can Carlos dethrone the king Djokovic?

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If Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic produce the kind of tennis that they did when meeting at Roland Garros last month then Sunday’s final will be, as the Serb said on Friday, ‘a feast’.

That French Open semi-final on June 9 effectively ended when the Spaniard suddenly experienced close to a full body cramp early in the third set, not long after a pulsating climax to the second.

Afterwards he was remarkably honest about the causes, bluntly admitting that the scale of the challenge and the occasion had caught up with him.

‘The tension of the first set, the second set, it was really intense,’ said Alcaraz. ‘Not easy to play against Novak. Of course he’s a legend of our sport. If someone says that he gets into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies.’

He was happy for that to be on the record, but events leading up to that situation are less known.

Carlos Alcaraz is bidding to beat Novak Djokovic and win his first Wimbledon title on Sunday

Carlos Alcaraz is bidding to beat Novak Djokovic and win his first Wimbledon title on Sunday

The Serb has been dominant at the event, winning each of the last four championships

The Serb has been dominant at the event, winning each of the last four championships

The two have history, with Alcaraz beating his opponent on the cusp of his 19th birthday at the Madrid Open last year

The two have history, with Alcaraz beating his opponent on the cusp of his 19th birthday at the Madrid Open last year

According to a source close to the Alcaraz camp, what had happened is that the youngster had looked at the draw and, this being on clay, was fairly certain that all roads were leading to a semi-final showdown with the Serb.

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For a whole week he was talking and thinking about this eventuality, despite his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero urging him to put it out of his mind until it materialised. Easier said than done, of course and ultimately the 20-year-old found it hard to control his energy and emotions.

Alcaraz also declared afterwards that he thought it would be different the next time the two of them met and now we are about to find out.

One of the endearing aspects about him is a sort of innocence that comes with youth. Andy Murray remarked on that a few months ago, when discussing how much he enjoys watching Alcaraz play.

‘That’s something you hope that he keeps. I know from experience that it’s a bit easier playing that way when you’re sort of 18, 19 and there’s not any scar tissue there,’ said Murray.

If Alcaraz has something going for him on Sunday then it is that element of it being a free hit, if there can ever be such a thing in a Wimbledon final.

He knows that he is going to have many more chances at SW19 and on grass he will not have the same expectations of himself as he would have done on the brown dirt of Roland Garros.

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It is worth remembering that Alcaraz does know how to beat him and has done it before. At the Madrid Open last year, on the cusp of his 19th birthday, he scored back-to-back wins over Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to announce himself as a precocious talent capable of disrupting the Big Three. In the match against Djokovic he won a sudden-death tiebreak in the third set.

Djokovic has once again been dominant in his run to the final, beating Jannik Sinner in straight sets in the semi-finals

Djokovic has once again been dominant in his run to the final, beating Jannik Sinner in straight sets in the semi-finals

Yet it is perhaps only in recent weeks that the wider British public will have discovered just how good he is.

Another aspect, which suggests this final could be outstanding, is that like all great players Alcaraz is a quick learner. When he arrived at Queen’s Club for his first match in the Cinch Championships he looked very unsure on the grass.

After his faintly embarrassing physical collapse in Paris he had taken himself for a brief holiday in Ibiza with a couple of friends ‘to be like a normal 20-year-old’ for a few days.

Scratching around initially in West London, he was lucky to edge through his opening match against French journeyman Arthur Rinderknech.

He was to win the title and four weeks on he already looks incredibly accomplished on the surface. In Friday’s semi-final he made world No3 Daniil Medvedev look a novice.

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Djokovic will be a very different prospect, the man whose unbeaten record on Centre Court goes back to 2013 when Murray beat him. This will be his 93rd match at SW19 and his record of winning 15 consecutive tiebreaks swings it heavily in his favour.

Alcaraz described his opponent as 'a legend of our sport' - admitting that he gets nervous when facing the star

Alcaraz described his opponent as ‘a legend of our sport’ – admitting that he gets nervous when facing the star

A triumph for Djokovic will put him three quarters of the way to a calendar Grand Slam

A triumph for Djokovic will put him three quarters of the way to a calendar Grand Slam

If the Serb triumphs he will be three quarters of the way to a calendar Grand Slam and given his age he knows the opportunity might not come round again.

It could be a climax to a Wimbledon which would not qualify as a vintage edition, but which has been better than might have been expected after several of the more alluring names either lost early or did not make the start line at all.

Those left behind have played some outstanding matches and the All England Club could certainly not have asked for a better line-up in the men’s final.

If Alcaraz pulled off something remarkable then that hoary old term ‘changing of the guard’ might even be justified.

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