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Alcaraz epic 'felt like grand slam final': Djokovic

Novak Djokovic rips off his shirt as he celebrates his victory over world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz at the Cincinnati Open. Picture: Aaron Doster.

A heart-pounding, titanic thriller has finished with Novak Djokovic overcoming a match point and stifling heat to beat world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz and win the Cincinnati Open.

Djokovic collapsed on his back before tearing off his shirt after triumphing 5-7 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-4) in Sunday's nearly four hour contest to get revenge after his loss to the Spaniard in last month's Wimbledon final.

"So much to say and so little energy," Djokovic said while collecting his third Cincinnati Open title.

"It has been a roller coaster and definitely one of the toughest and most exciting matches that I've ever been a part of, in any tournament... It did feel like a grand slam final, even more than that, to be honest."

The 23-time grand slam champion looked hobbled by the intense humidity at the tail end of the first set, barely moving when Alcaraz hit a backhand winner to grab the opener.

Alcaraz, who looked fresh despite being on court for more than 10 hours this week including wins over Australians Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell, grabbed a 4-2 second-set lead and it appeared he might cruise to the finish line.

But the 20-year-old Spanish sensation would produce a terrible service game while leading 4-3 that included four unforced errors and threw a lifeline to the world No.2.

In the second-set tiebreak Djokovic saved a championship point and went on to force a decider after winning a 25-shot rally.

During the break before the third set, a frustrated Alcaraz pounded his hand against the plastic drinks container next to his chair, requiring a medical time out to tape his finger.

In the decider, Djokovic broke on his fifth opportunity of the game for a 4-3 lead.

The drama would continue, with the Serb squandering two match points on return while leading 5-3.

Alcaraz would save two more match points and break serve when Djokovic missed an overhead for 5-5.

The players ultimately arrived at another tiebreak, which Djokovic won when his rival's forehand return went wide.

"It is going to be tough for me to talk right now but I tried to do my best," Alcaraz said.

"This match was really close but I learned a lot."

The win was Djokovic's 95th career title and 39th Masters 1000 crown.

The tournament was his first on US soil in two years after the Serb was barred from entering the country because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

He will look to add a 24th Grand Slam trophy to his collection at the upcoming US Open, which runs from August 28-September 10.

"Hopefully we can play in some weeks' time in New York," Djokovic said.

"That would be nice for the crowd, I don't know about me."


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