Cincinnati (US), Aug 21: The 23-time Grand Slam champion, Novak Djokovic defeated world no. 1 Carlos Alcaraz in one of the all-time great Masters 1000 matches, with the Serbian saving championship point to win the Cincinnati Masters 5-7, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4).
The 36-year-old rallied from a set and a break down against the World No. 1 and saved a championship point at 5/6 in the second-set tie-break to earn a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 title.
Djokovic was visibly struggling with the intense Cincinnati heat and was unable to find an answer against the top seed. But one poor Alcaraz service game at 4-3 in the second set slightly opened the door, and that was all Djokovic needed to spring to life.
By the final-set tie-break, it was the 20-year-old who was struggling physically, cramping in his right hand. Djokovic finally converted his fifth championship point and fell to the court in celebration.
Djokovic and Alcaraz toiled for three hours and 49 minutes before the Serbian avenged his recent Wimbledon final loss to the Spaniard and levelled their ATP Head-to-Head series at 2-2.
"It's a crazy match that we've been through today. Roller coaster of a match. I don't think I've played too many matches like this in my life," Djokovic said in his post-match press conference.
"Maybe I can compare it to against Nadal at the 2012 Australian Open that went the distance. Obviously three sets today, but almost four hours. One of the most exciting and toughest mentally, emotionally, physically matches that I've ever had in my career," he said.
Djokovic is now the oldest champion in tournament history, breaking the record set by 35-year-old Ken Rosewall. On the other hand, the 20-year-old Alcaraz was the youngest finalist at the event, since 19-year-old Pete Sampras in 1991.
The Serbian also broke a tie with Ivan Lendl for third-most tour-level titles on record, now standing alone in third with 95. Only Jimmy Connors (109) and Roger Federer (103) have more.
Although Alcaraz leaves Cincinnati as the No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings, Djokovic will enter the US Open just 20 points behind and with an excellent chance to reclaim top spot because the Spaniard is defending 2,000 points at Flushing Meadows.