Match Stats/Report - Alcaraz vs Djokovic, Madrid semi-final, 2022

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Carlos Alcaraz beat Novak Djokovic 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) in the Madrid semi-final, 2022 on clay

Alcaraz would go onto win the title for the first time, beating Alexander Zverev in the final. He’d beaten Rafael Nadal in the previous round and became the first player to beat both Nadal and Djokovic in the same clay event. Djokovic, the reigning French Open champion, would win Rome immediately after

Alcaraz won 134 points, Djokovic 131

Serve Stats
Alcaraz...
- 1st serve percentage (91/136) 67%
- 1st serve points won (67/91) 74%
- 2nd serve points won (23/45) 51%
- Aces 4, Service Winners 1 (a second serve)
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (39/136) 29%

Djokovic...
- 1st serve percentage (86/129) 67%
- 1st serve points won (57/86) 66%
- 2nd serve points won (28/43) 65%
- Aces 8 (1 second serve), Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (41/129) 32%

Serve Pattern
Alcaraz served...
- to FH 27%
- to BH 71%
- to Body 2%

Djokovic served...
- to FH 45%
- to BH 53%
- to Body 2%

Return Stats
Alcaraz made...
- 86 (54 FH, 32 BH), including 9 runaround FHs
- 3 Winners (2 FH, 1 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 32 Errors, comprising...
- 15 Unforced (9 FH, 6 BH), including 5 runaround FHs
- 17 Forced (7 FH, 10 BH)
- Return Rate (86/127) 68%

Djokovic made...
- 93 (26 FH, 67 BH), including 3 runaround FHs
- 2 Winners (2 BH)
- 34 Errors, comprising...
- 14 Unforced (4 FH, 10 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 20 Forced (6 FH, 14 BH)
- Return Rate (93/132) 70%

Break Points
Alcaraz 2/10 (6 games)
Djokovic 1/6 (6 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding aces)
Alcaraz 45 (29 FH, 7 BH, 5 FHV, 4 BHV)
Djokovic 15 (5 FH, 5 BH, 4 BHV, 1 OH)

Alcaraz' FHs - 4 cc (1 runaround return), 1 dtl, 1 dtl/inside-out, 5 inside-out, 6 inside-in, 2 inside-in/cc (1 return), 3 inside-in/longline, 6 drop shots, 1 running-down-drop-shot dtl at net
- BHs - 1 cc pass, 2 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-in return, 1 longline pass at net, 2 drop shots

- 3 from serve-volley points (1 FHV, 2 BHV), all first volleys

- 2 other FHVs were swinging shots - 1 inside-out

Djokovic's FHs - 2 cc (1 at net), 1 dtl, 1 inside-out, 1 inside-out/dtl
- BHs - 1 cc, 2 inside-out (1 return), 1 inside-in return, 1 running-down-drop-shot cc at net

Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Alcaraz 71
- 50 Unforced (35 FH, 14 BH, 1 BHV)
- 21 Forced (12 FH, 7 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV)... with 1 baseline BHV pass attempt
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.4

Djokovic 48
- 27 Unforced (16 FH, 9 BH, 2 OH)... with 1 BH at net
- 21 Forced (5 FH, 14 BH, 2 BHV)... with 1 FH running-down-drop-shot at net & 3 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 49.6

(Note 1: all half-volleys refer to such shots played at net. Half -volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke counts)

(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Alcaraz was...
- 25/29 (86%) at with, including...
- 11/12 (92%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 10/10 (100%) off 1st serve and...
- 1/2 off 2nd serve
---
- 1/1 retreated

Djokovic was 13/27 (48%) at net, with...
- 1/1 forced back

Match Report
Great match, with high end, hard hitting action where Alcaraz seizes the attacking role, Djokovic counter-punches - and both are very good at what they do (Alcaraz a little better and a lot more eye-catching). Both players get a lot out of their serves too (Djokovic seemingly a bit more, but that’s open to interpretation) and action is competitive from start to stop as the scoreline suggests. Fitness and stamina turn out to be possibly the most important factor. As match nears 4 hours, Alcaraz is fresher and would have better prospects of winning, as he ends up doing. Court is unusually quick for clay and doubly so in producing high bounce

To un-clay like extent, match is server dominated. Madrid often plays as quickly as a hard court and yields corresponding numbers to that. Here, its more like grass with just 3 breaks in 3 very, very full sets of tennis

Alcs wins 50.6% of points, while serving 51.3% of them
Break points - Alcs 2/10, Djoko 1/6, with both having them in 6 games

Those final figures bend Alcs’ way due to last set. After 2 sets, its Djoko whose won 50.6% of points, serving 44.3% of them

Break points after 2 sets - Alcs 2/4 (3 games), Djoko 1/5 (5 games)
Break points in third set - Alcs 0/6 (3 games), Djoko 0/1

Both tie-break sets end up going to the player whose had sizably better of the set and both times, the winner extends that superiority in the ‘breaker in question too

First set, Djoko can’t seem to lose a point on serve (after being broken to start the match). He wins 21 straight service points and 25/27, while regularly getting into return games. Leads the ‘breaker itself 5-1 and 6-2 before Alcs makes the scoreline look a little tougher than it is (he wins his first return point for 22 points with a direct return winner)

Third set, Djoko can’t seem to get an easy hold. He ends up serving 53 points for his 6 holds (Alcs serves 42), and serves his best for the match (in which he’s served well all match) to hold off the stronger, faster and seemingly fresher Alcs. Tiebreak though is never a hopeless cause for him and 5-3 and 6-4 are Alcs’ most significant leads

Sandwiched in between, the most even of the sets, which Alcs pinches at its 11th hour, fittingly in a drop-shot based game. ‘Fittingly because of all the many things Alcs does well, his drop-shotting is the best. Djoko doesn’t indulge much, but fails when he does, including in the game in question. There’s something amusing in Djoko, who’s over-indulged drop shots all his long career despite limited results (to put it generously), get a lesson in how its done - and highlight how he’s not in Alcs league in this area

Alcs with 45 winners to Djoko’s 15
Djoko with 27 UEs to Alcs’ 50
(they both have 21 FEs)

No arguing who's the aggressor and who's the reactive partner here

Djoko leading unreturneds 32% to 29%, along with double the aces (and ace rate). That though isn’t quite as clear indicator of who has better of serve-return matters. The biggest determinant of court action is Alcs serve causing Djoko to take up unusual, backward return positions from where he’s unable to return effectively (as in, neutralizingly, let alone damagingly) as he tends to do. Good lot of freebies too for Alcs, but his drawing even normal returns (as opposed to weak ones), giving him chance to collar rallies at once in a way you usually don’t see in Djoko’s matches

“Having chances to” and “doing” are 2 different things. For how well he succeeds, see winner counts

Serve, Return & the Court
Its nice to see a court that’s different. This one is quick and high bouncing. They used to have these in Cincinnati in the ‘90s. Its not lightning fast like those but does make for some interesting action

And server domination. Comparing to the pair’s Wimbledon final the following year, unreturned serves -
- here, Alc 29%, Djoko 32%
- Wimby - Alc 27%, Djoko 23%

1st serve ace rate -
- here, Alc 4%, Djoko 9%
- Wimby - Alc 10%, Djoko 2%

Both players win higher lot of points off both serves here than they would on the grass of Wimby. Chances of something like this happening in the ‘90s or earlier would be close to nil
Is the serving so good? Or the returning so bad? To account for this kind of server domination.

More the serve being good. And the bounce. In the final, Alcs serves would reach the very tall Zverev, standing well back, around chest height

Some smart serving from Alcs. In quarter-final, he’d banged down first serves as hard as he could. He tempers that here,while still being pacey but works more to get the ball up to Djoko. It works and Djoko experiments with his return position to find the most comfy one to cope. About mid-way through first set, he settles on mode position about half-way back to the fence, which for him, is very far back. Only ‘mode’ position because he varies it some - occasionally taking returns from his usual, 1-2 steps behind baseline, rarer still, on the baseline (particularly for second serves), but usually, well back for him

Still struggles to return, as 70% return rate testifies to, but more importantly, those clinically thumped neutralizing or initiative grabbing deep returns down the middle he’s so good at are very scarce. Swings at the ball, doesn’t go as far as blocking them, but not too hard and Alcs has time to set up his first groundie. In a sense, the exceptional situation brings home how important stock deep returning is to Djoko’s success

One of Djoko’s more successful returning ploys is pseudo moonballing BHs back in play. Does it fair bit in first set, but drops it soon after. It doesn’t go badly for him and probably better than what for most players would be just normal returning - backwards position (by Djoko standard, very backward), not very effective swings on the return and fair few misses - in a nutshell, that’s Djoko’s return showing

Alcs winning 10/10 first serve-volley points is indicator of Djoko not being able to return with much force. He doesn’t face tough volleys, from where Djoko’s standing, he’d see him coming and return accordingly, but Alcs with perfect record here (he loses 1/2 second serve-volleying, to a very powerful, wide, low-ish return)
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Very good job by Alcs on the serve. How many people have served well enough to push Djoko back for the return? And kept him form returning with much effectiveness even when he more time to set up his shot

Djoko serves still better, wider, more powerful, doesn’t get it up as high, but Alcs doesn’t seem bothered by height. His out-acing Alcs 8-4 (1 of Djoko’s is a second serve) is exaggerated indicator of how much better his serve is (it isn’t twice as good)

Alcs returns from normal position, also without much heat. Occasional attempts to take returns early and aggressively usually fail and he misses some dolly runaround FH returns he’s not looking to be aggressive with

Unreturned serves (from returners point of view)
- Aced/Service Winner’d - Alcs 9, Djoko 5
- FEs - Alcs - 17, Djoko 20
- UEs - Alcs 15, Djoko 14
… and return rate - Djoko 70%, Alcs 68% (with Alcs double faulting more, Djoko’s unreturned serve advantage is 3%)

Alcs UEs are easier than Djoko’s. Djoko tends to miss pacey in-swing zone returns on high-ish side on that front. Alcs misses those too (not as high), but also some easy second returns. He’s got 5 runaround FH UEs (to only 9 made, 1 a winner), and he’s not looking for big return on those usually

FEs close too. About equally tough misses, bar near the end, when Djoko serves his best and hard forces a number of errors. Alcs moves a bit better for the returner (and is taxed a bit more to too)

Gist - unreturneds Alcs 29%, Djoko 32% (with Alcs double faulting 4 times to Djoko’s 2 too)

In a normal Djoko match, that would hugely favour him, as he tends to return whatever he does more damagingly than his opponent. That not being the case here is key to the match. Ordinary returns from both players, that server can look to command, if anything, Alcs returning with a bit more heat

Just on numbers, Djoko with better of serve-return complex. In actuality too, but a lot less so than what those numbers would usually indicate for him. Alcs serving well enough - and there’s brains involved in how he serves as well as pure skill - to keep Djoko from getting close to authoritative returning, is crucial

Finally, room for improvement for both players on the returnt. Lot of UEs on the return. Tough for UEs, but still, UEs - kind of misses that inflict self-annoyance

Play - Baseline (& Net)
Identical first serve percentage of 67% makes breaking down who has better of court action easier

First serve points won - Alcs 74%, Djoko 66%
Second serve points won - Alcs 51%, Djoko 65%

Logical conclusion would be Alcs getting a lot out of his first serve (true) and Djoko’s 2 serves being the same (not true)

Sans Alcs’ perfect 10/10 first serve-volleying, his first serve points won falls to 70% - still better than Djoko’s. In words, points starting on the baseline with from good starting position, Alcs doing better than Djoko. That’d be his greater aggression (which we’ll come to next) at work

Djoko doing equally well off his two serves is somewhat due to Alcs making a mess of 2nd returns. Balance of points won from neutral starting points is roughly equal - as evidenced by Alcs’ 2nd serve points won. Djoko gets that even share on his second serve points, with more missed returns from Alcs thrown in

And Djoko not doing any better behind his very good first serve (if anything, slightly better than Alcs’) for not being aggressive. Alcs able to neutralize good chunk of first return rallies.

Winners - Alcs 45, Djoko 15
Errors forced - both 21
UEs - Alcs 50, Djoko

Non-aggression (if not passivity) isn’t unusual for Djoko, but this vast a difference in winners is rare. One of his great strengths in general is to bottle up aggressive players. One reason he can’t do that is because his return is ineffective in achieving that goal, as outlined earlier

Despite the figures, its not all-out Alcs attacking and Djoko defending. Much of action is just hard-hitting exchanges, with Alcs playing from slightly further up court. Alcs’ neutral power is excellent and a) keeps Djoko pegged back (helped by Djoko being back after his returns) and b) gives him opening (which he’s proactive and adventurous enough to be on look out for) to step in and attack more fully

To be clear, he doesn’t outhit or overpower Djoko much - and certainly to nothing like the extent winner counts might suggest. But he does enjoy slight hitting advantage in neutral rally exchanges (with both hitting hard), is more willing to move closer to baseline and does draw more weak or not-strong balls than Djoko does. He’s also willing to make most of not-strong ball to attack, which Djoko mostly isn’t

Shot-making (i.e. going for winners from not-easy balls for it) make up much of Alcs’ final push in attacking and of course, he doesn’t miss a chance to attack anything that is easy. And his FH is by a few avenues the biggest dog on the court

29 FH winners from Alcs. All other shots in match (Alcs’ non-FHs + all Djoko’s) have 31
Djoko has 5 total FH winners
Off the FH, Alcs has 6 drop shots. 5 inside-out. 6 inside-in (among 10 inside-in based)

Pure carnage from Alcs FH. He’s got 3 inside-in/longline winners. What the hell exactly is ‘inside-in/longline’? Labeling any FH from ad court to deuce court as ‘inside-in’ as a starting point, usually winners in that broad direction either get marked ‘inside-in’ if they’re close to side line and straight or ‘inside-in/cc’ if they’re slightly angled, usually played from closer to center line

These winners by Alcs bisect the deuce court. The reason you don’t see winners like that is because such a ball can usually be reached by the receiver. Not Alcs’. Its as much variety as power that does the trick. With Alcs backing away, Djoko looks to cover FH inside-out, and Alcs’ inside-in/longlines go for winners

And then there’s the drop shots. To exaggerate, he uses drop shots the way Roger Federer used FH inside-out. Big serve has Djoko off balance and back, and Alcs’ third ball finisher is drop shot. Not that serve is the only set up shot. His power advantage keeping Djoko pegged behind baseline does just as well, but with someone as quick as Djoko and so good at the delicate running-down-drop-shot shot at net, Alcs’ droppers have to be perfect to win points. And they are. Over and over again, mostly off the FH. He’s got 8 drop shot winners alone (on top of forcing 4 errors), virtually never misses and rarely hits a bad one. Top drawer stuff use of drop shots from Alcs, it goes perfectly with his big hitting

Devastating as FH is, Alcs doesn’t overly look to use it. He doesn’t back-away to play FHs unduly and is happy to trade hard-hitting BHs with the master too. And no reason not to - his BH is about as strong as Djoko’s of force, but he leads play to the tune of being able to choose more often than his opponent which wing will be at forefront and prefers FH

Djoko doesn’t seem to mind. His acceptance of Alcs FH lead isn’t one of helplessness. It varies across match, but fairly often, he seems to be baiting Alcs to go for too much and mess up. And as always, encouraging him to do so with force and depth

Ground UEs by shot -
- Djoko BH 8 (excluding a net shot)
- Alcs BH 14
- Djoko FH 16
-Alcs FH 35

… and type -
- Neutral - Alcs 28, Djoko 9
- Attacking - Alcs 7, Djoko 10
- Winner Attempts - Alcs 15, Djoko 8

Djoko going a long way to counter-acting his -30 on aggressively ended points by being more secure

BH-BH rallies are hard hitting, with Alcs’ form looking stable. Fine job by Djoko getting better of thing there. Would do well to have been more proactive in orchestrating BH rallies. He has mouse’s share of controlling points, but is the master at switching to longline whenever he wants. He doesn’t much with the FH, though it wouldn’t be easy. And whatever the UE count, there’s no lack of force in Alcs’ BH, no weak balls being coughed up that Djoko can take charge from. Hittings a wash, if anything, Alcs more powerful (he tends to make errors when going for extra powerful, but essentially, neutral shot)

In FH-FH starting points though, Alcs’ is very powerful of shot, and it would be difficult for Djoko to seize control. He sticks in, reactively if not defensively. Considerable looseness from Alcs on the FH and most of it is neutral. What passes for ‘neutral’ for him is on hard-hitting side, and as is way of FHs, rallies don’t stay cc for long with both players able to go other directions

Alcs making use of hitting advantage and also executing his offence much better
He’s forced 3 errors for every attacking UE, Djoko about 2
He’s got 3 winners for every UE attempt, Djoko less than 2
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Keeping action on his racquet - check for Alcs. Djoko not overly contesting but its unlikely he’d be able to as powerful as Alcs hitting is
Making most of action being on his racquet - check for Alcs, with phenomenal shot-making of the FH in particular. Djoko not great in this area
Staying tough and consistent - check for Djoko, and against tough opposition. Alcs is loose to faulty degree at times, but for most part, neutral UE contest is credit to Djoko, not a discredit to Alcs

2 last points. Alcs augmenting his offence with terrific success at net where he wins 86% of his 29 approaches. Having Djoko pushed back helps, but he’s very sure on the volley with fine finishing touch. Just 1 UE and 1 FE (he has another flagrantly forced baseline volley error). Next to no chance for Djoko on the pass

Djoko wins 13/27 by contrast. Both the number of approaches being as high as Alcs and the success rate are deceptive. Large lot involve dealing with drop shots, which he usually loses. He shows little interest in coming to net and would have had to be particularly proactive to do so, given how far he’s pushed. Only when tiring does he look for approaches some, usually winning when coming in on his terms

2 OH UEs by Djoko. Some things never change

Alcs is quicker about the court. His leg is taped up, after rolling an ankle in the previous round. Normal good movement from Djoko, excellent from Alcs. His defensive gusto has hand in keeping Djoko’s attacking efficiency being better. By contrast, its possible to defend successfully against Alcs offence, its beyond Djokovic’s ability to

Match Progression
After a bad start where he’s broken, Djoko has much better of first set. A double fault and missing a regulation third ball BH are his contributions to the game, a winning FH dtl and a BH cc passing winner are Alcs’

Alcs tries to fire BH winners in his opening service game, but misses and is down break point. Djoko misses a second return on it, before Alcs goes on to hold

Djoko wins 25/27 service points for rest of set, while regularly getting into return games. Alcs ends up serving 47 points in the set to Djoko’s 33

Both struggle to return. Alcs more so. 12/27 Djoko’s serves don’t come back after the first game. Djoko meanwhile plays about with his return position, often falling well behind baseline. Takes to quasi moonballing a few BH returns to good effect

Alcs’ movements are excellent and up to handling Djoko moving the ball around, but he’s apt to miss groundies he’s got into perfect position for anyway. Just ground inconsistency here

Djoko breaks back for 4-4, having ahd a break point in previous game too. The high looped returns work for Djoko in the game and he scores with a strong FH cc. Alcs endures another deuce hold next go around

Few memorable shots. A Djoko third ball BH inside-out winner in game 3, a lovely FH drop shot winner by Alcs (by end of match, common place) and perfect running-down-drop-shot BH cc at net winner by Djoko stand out among them

Very solid tiebreak from Djoko who has no UEs in (save 1 return). Alcs has 5 (including a return), with 2/3 BHs being improbable aggressive shot choices. He falls 1-5 behind behind before winning a few points to make the score more respectable, and strikes a BH inside-in return winner. It’s the first return point he’s won of the last 22 and he follows up with an ace and a BH drop shot winner, before Djoko closes it out

Second set is better still and more even. Djoko’s first serve points winning streak ends at 18 when he misses an OH. He settles into a backward return position and cuts back on the moon-returns. Alcs has better of first half of the set, Djoko the second before a particularly good game from Alcs settles it

Alcs has break point at 3-2, brought up by another drop shot winner. He’s pushed behind baseline on the point and gives up a FH error, before a couple of unreturned serves get Djoko the hold

Play picks up, with Alcs firing brilliant winners more regularly, but Djoko tougher and cleaner than ever from the back. In moving to 5-4 and 6-5, Alcs has to save a break point in 10 point games

First time, Djoko misses a makeable return on break point. He moonballs a return awhile later and the two trade a few moonballs, but Alcs slips forward to dispatch Djoko’s latest one with a swinging FHV winner

Drop shots are crucial at this stage and Djoko starts tossing a few of his own in. They’re nowhere near as good as Alcs’ winners and he’s lucky to win a point from a bad one. Comes as a big surprise when Alcs’ misses one for the first time to give Djoko another break point. Alcs saves it with a winning BH drop shot before going on to hold for 6-5

Drop shots are at forefront of the last game too. Alcs wins opening point with one and wins the second after Djoko plays one. Down 0-40, Djoko, saves break/set point with a BH dtl but drop shot related point finishes things off for Alcs. He hits a good one that Djoko runs down and plays at fine angle, which Alcs runs down still better to ease over the highest part of the net for a winner

Djoko had shown first signs of tiring at end of second set and these grow at start of third. It’s the only set that Alcs has comfortably better of. He perhaps overdoes the shot-making and going for winners from near routine position rather than work over Djoko a bit. Outplayed, Djoko serves his best for the match, which just about keeps his hat in the ring, along with Alcs missing some routine or easy returns

For 6 holds, Alcs serves 42 points, Djoko 53. Djoko faces 6 break points across 3 games, including a match point in games lasting 14, 8 and 14 points. Alcs faces just 1 break point in a 14 point game

Bunch of winner attempts UEs gets Alcs into trouble in game 7. Wonderful as his shot-making is, bit of building up to it wouldn’t hurt - particularly against a weakening opponent
Alcs missing routine, runaround FH returns saves Djoko in one game and strong serves get him through in the others before things go into another tiebreak

This time, its Alcs with 0 UEs (other than a missed first return), and Djoko with a couple. Third ball attacking FH cc miss puts sets Djoko back 0-2 at the start. He sneaks in smartly to pull back the mini with a BHV winner

Djoko’s down a mini again, courtesy of a strong FH dtl, but pulls it back again, with a typical, but rare-for-this-match return to the baseline, that he squeezes out against a body serve to make things 4-5, with two serves to come

He misses another third ball FH going deep to fall behind again, and Alcs smacks away a third ball FH inside-in winner on his first match point on serve to close things out

Summing up, a great match, especially from Alcaraz whose attacking play is a joy to watch. Powerful hitting off both wings, with the FH going in for fabulous shot-making in all directions from there. The highlight of the highlight is his exquisite use of the drop shot, which complements his power hitting perfectly. Throws in serve-volleying and some net play to add still more layers to his onslaught

Djokovic is largely relegated to counter-punching. Which he does very well, against formidable hitting. He serves particularly well

For all of Alcaraz’s show-stealing fireworks, key to result is something quieter. Combo of pace and bounce of his serve is enough to push Djokovic into taking a backward returning position, from where he’s unable to curb Alcs’ power-hitting, shot-making and drop-shotting offensive. And stamina - Djokovic has better of action for two sets, but momentum shifts Alcaraz’ way after that with his opponent weakening and only particularly good serving keeping Djokovic from falling behind decisively

Stats for the final between Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev - Match Stats/Report - Alcaraz vs Zverev, Madrid final, 2022 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
Stats for Alcaraz’ semi with Rafael Nadal - Match Stats/Report - Alcaraz vs Nadal, Madrid quarter-final, 2022 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)

@Rafa4LifeEver - thoughts?
 

Rafa4LifeEver

G.O.A.T.
@Rafa4LifeEver - thoughts?
Well, your analysis is spot on about the action. The one thing which particularly drew my attention was when you said it was un-claylike, its hilarious but definitely true.

If I had to summarise it in as few words as possible, I'd say the good old "unstoppable force against immovable object" but they do change these roles throughout the match, particularly in the tiebreakers where I felt Djokovic was being the aggressor and moved Carlos around, but the Spaniard found a way out, more often than not.

The one thing which Djokovic exploited a lot in this match, and continued to do so afterwards in their upcoming encounters was to rush Alcaraz on that forehand wing; the only time it didn't work was in Wimbledon 2023 Final when the Spaniard actually shortened his takeback.

Man, this match was probably the best BO3 match since a long time, until the very last point I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Even though I had been supporting Alcaraz for a long time (since late 2020 tbh), this was the match that made me a fan. His grit, especially the will to hang in there despite his own errors and/or stupid decisions at times hindering his way; made me feel very nostalgic, it was almost 2004-05 Nadal-esque in terms of nostalgia for me.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
...Djokovic exploited a lot in this match, and continued to do so afterwards in their upcoming encounters was to rush Alcaraz on that forehand wing;

That's how I saw it, I think he was baiting Alcaraz' FH much of the time

Looks daft when opponent ends up with 29 winners, 35 UEs, while protogantist has 5 winners, 16 UEs.

But we are talking about a huge load of neutral UEs - on the FH its Djoko 6, Alcs 19, Djoko 6
So on BH, it'd be Djoko 3, Alcs 9. Same proportion, sans with much less danger of 29 winners coming about

Why not just keep things nice and tight with BH-BH rallies? Its what Djoko likes to do to maintain control anyway
As his tiring indicates, I don't think Djoko has legs and stomach for an all-out grind anymore. A little ironic, given how their match at French Open last year turned out
He's also not in control enough to decide which direction play will take, being so less then Alcs. Still, he usually has ability to play longline off either side at will, which he doesn't off the FH here

Man, this match was probably the best BO3 match since a long time
I thought so too, and for maybe the first time ever, felt the commentators were under-selling it. Towards end, they were saying things like "one of the/maybe best matches of the year"

Match like this, they usually go straight into hyperbole. Give it a couple years, when Alcs is an even bigger name, and I bet they will

...His grit, especially the will to hang in there despite his own errors and/or stupid decisions at times hindering his way; made me feel very nostalgic, it was almost 2004-05 Nadal-esque in terms of nostalgia for me.
There is a similarity in the way they move and he is full of grit. As fearless under pressure as anyone I can think off

Its a pity Thiem's game seems to be gone with the wind. Thiem at his best trading FHs with this Alcs would be some sight

Question - can you confirm that there was no shot clock for this event? I don't see one here or in the quarters, commentators never mention anything about it, Nadal isn't looking up at the clock as he bounces the ball as he tends to etc.
 

Rafa4LifeEver

G.O.A.T.
Why not just keep things nice and tight with BH-BH rallies? Its what Djoko likes to do to maintain control anyway
As his tiring indicates, I don't think Djoko has legs and stomach for an all-out grind anymore. A little ironic, given how their match at French Open last year turned out
He's also not in control enough to decide which direction play will take, being so less then Alcs. Still, he usually has ability to play longline off either side at will, which he doesn't off the FH here
Well, Alcaraz is the only elite mover amongst the youngsters that Djokovic has faced so far in his career, and his Forehand runaround Inside-out is much more dangerous than his forehand rally shot cross court. So my conclusion about Djokovic not trying to lock Alcaraz into BH-BH exchanges is that his own BH has declined greatly over the years and he didn't want to take the risk of letting Alcaraz his runaround Inside-out forehand bombs which were troublesome for the Serb. Its the same strategy that he used in their RG semi a year later, and worked to perfection in both first & second sets. Even in their Cincinnati final, that strategy worked really well for Djokovic, especially on important points where the FH let Alcaraz down, time and time again.
thought so too, and for maybe the first time ever, felt the commentators were under-selling it. Towards end, they were saying things like "one of the/maybe best matches of the year"

Match like this, they usually go straight into hyperbole. Give it a couple years, when Alcs is an even bigger name, and I bet they will
It was the best BO3 match in a very long time, 100%.

Its a pity Thiem's game seems to be gone with the wind. Thiem at his best trading FHs with this Alcs would be some sight
Why do you want balls to be murdered? xD

Question - can you confirm that there was no shot clock for this event? I don't see one here or in the quarters, commentators never mention anything about it, Nadal isn't looking up at the clock as he bounces the ball as he tends to etc.
Shot clock was mandatory for tournaments starting in 2018 or 2019, as far as I remember. Perhaps they were not displaying it on a large screen and/or enforcing it strongly.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Shot clock was mandatory for tournaments starting in 2018 or 2019, as far as I remember. Perhaps they were not displaying it on a large screen and/or enforcing it strongly.

That's what I thought, but I haven't seen complete absence of it - no sight, no mention - in any match like this one

And they do have an unusual rule for the tournament; according to commentary, unlimited challenges (which they check via a close-up camera shot of the ball landing, not Hawkeye)

I'll look around, but can anyone confirm for certain about this matter

Was there or was there not a shot clock in operation during this tournament? My feeling is there wasn't
 

jl809

Hall of Fame
Why not just keep things nice and tight with BH-BH rallies? Its what Djoko likes to do to maintain control anyway
As his tiring indicates, I don't think Djoko has legs and stomach for an all-out grind anymore. A little ironic, given how their match at French Open last year turned out
He's also not in control enough to decide which direction play will take, being so less then Alcs. Still, he usually has ability to play longline off either side at will, which he doesn't off the FH here
Thing is, before Alcaraz completely and utterly fell apart in the RG SF, Djokovic was also tiring, and (hilariously in hindsight) doing so more visibly than Alcaraz. In the second set, most times he was brought into net, his approach shots and CC narrow flicks and chips etc (which are normally so controlled and excellent) were wildly out of control, as his legs and head weren’t as clear as normal. Match thread was talking about it at the time too.

Ultimately his experience of the rigours of a Bo5 match - plus a massive slice of fortune - helped him out that day, but we saw what happened at Wimbledon when his opponent refused to go away in the 3rd after a long, tight 2nd. Totally agree with you that he no longer has the ability to play 5 sets in one match where he needs to be locked in at 70-80% or more for all of them (entirely understandable given his age). This was also why the brutal 2nd set in the USO F was crucial - it had to be a 3 set sprint (like it was in the end) or would have been a 5 set war had Meddy won that set imo, nothing in between
 
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Rafa4LifeEver

G.O.A.T.
That's what I thought, but I haven't seen complete absence of it - no sight, no mention - in any match like this one

And they do have an unusual rule for the tournament; according to commentary, unlimited challenges (which they check via a close-up camera shot of the ball landing, not Hawkeye)

I'll look around, but can anyone confirm for certain about this matter

Was there or was there not a shot clock in operation during this tournament? My feeling is there wasn't
I was physically present at the tournament and now I feel ashamed of myself for not remembering anything whatsoever about the shot clock.
Time really flies, man. It absolutely does.
o_O
 

Moose Malloy

G.O.A.T.
That's what I thought, but I haven't seen complete absence of it - no sight, no mention - in any match like this one

And they do have an unusual rule for the tournament; according to commentary, unlimited challenges (which they check via a close-up camera shot of the ball landing, not Hawkeye)

I'll look around, but can anyone confirm for certain about this matter

Was there or was there not a shot clock in operation during this tournament? My feeling is there wasn't
Nadal got a time violation vs Goffin that year:

Chair umpire Richard Haigh hit the Spaniard with a time violation warning when the serve clock showed zero prompting Nadal to mutter “unbelievable.” An unsettled Nadal committed a pair of forehand errors as Goffin earned the first break for 3-2.

 
Great match, with high end, hard hitting action where Alcaraz seizes the attacking role, Djokovic counter-punches - and both are very good at what they do (Alcaraz a little better and a lot more eye-catching).
i remember commenting at the time of the match that it felt like a constant struggle between Alcaraz and Djokovic to impose their base styles: Alcaraz trying to make things more exciting, and Djokovic trying to make things more boring. a good example by way of a delightful series of stories: https://degensclub.com/journal/blurryturtle/2023-us-open-mens-semifinals

Alcaraz vs Medvedev​

6:00AM.​

Alcaraz opens his eyes.

There is no alarm clock, as he was only pretending to sleep. He reaches up and adjusts his Santa hat.

“It is Christmas!” he announces to Juan Carlos Ferrero with a fist-pump.

“It is not Christmas, Carlitos,” mumbles JCF.

“Every day of tennis is Christmas for me!” declares Alcaraz, as he catapults out of bed and begins swinging his racquet, which he slept with.

“Can I bring The Hulk to the match?” asks Carlos, nodding to his pet kitten, who is sleeping in a tiny sleeveless shirt next to a tiny tennis racquet.

“No Carlitos,” mumbles JCF, “they don’t allow pets.”

“Ok!” shouts Carlos, before winking at the Hulk and tucking her gently into his racquet bag.

“Today I am going to play five sets!” declares Carlos, while JCF begins eating a muffin.

“No, Carlitos, we want to win quickly, you can play more tennis in the finals,” says JCF.

“Ok!” says Alcaraz, while dropshotting the muffin out of Juan’s hand. Juan goes to protest, but it is too late. Alcaraz has already bounded out of the room headed towards the practice courts.

the match ending up so close indicates Djokovic might have visually tempered Alcaraz enough for this kind of reaction:
I thought so too, and for maybe the first time ever, felt the commentators were under-selling it. Towards end, they were saying things like "one of the/maybe best matches of the year"

Match like this, they usually go straight into hyperbole. Give it a couple years, when Alcs is an even bigger name, and I bet they will
 
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