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Now he has shown his mettle on grass, against the best players in the most prestigious tournament in the world. During an on-court ceremony after the match, Djokovic, who teared up when mentioning his son, graciously lauded Alcaraz. He noted that, yes, he knew Alcaraz would be an instant force on red clay and blue paint. Now, grass, too? Already?

“I didn’t expect him to play so well this year on grass,” Djokovic said. “But he’s proven that he’s the best player in the world, no doubt. He’s playing some fantastic tennis on different surfaces and he deserves to be where he is.”

Even before the racket smash, there was another extended moment when Djokovic might have gotten the signal that he was in for a challenging few years.

With Djokovic serving at 1-3 in the third set, the two men played a 32-point game with 13 deuces that lasted over 26 minutes. Both players ran and dove and made amazing shots, and the spectators hollered in delight at the extraordinary play, and the guts on display.

“The nerve Alcaraz showed was absolutely remarkable,” Evert said.

Finally, after Djokovic hit a forehand into the net, Alcaraz had broken serve again. He put his finger to his ear, asking the crowd for more noise, and right there Djokovic had to know. For as many years as he can hang on, Alcaraz will probably be there, too, even on grass.

“I think it’s good for the sport, 1 and 2 in the world facing each other in almost a five-hour, five-set thriller,” Djokovic said. “Couldn’t be better for our sport in general.”

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