MASON, Ohio — Novak Djokovic overcame match point and sweltering heat to beat the world’s No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) and won the Cincinnati Open in a heart-pounding thriller on Sunday.
Djokovic fell back before tearing his shirt off after winning a nearly four-hour match to claim his third title in Cincinnati and taking revenge after his defeat to Alcaraz in last month’s Wimbledon final.
“This is one of the most exciting matches I’ve played in any tournament,” Djokovic, who won a record 23 men’s Grand Slam titles, said during the post-match trophy presentation. “It’s like a Grand Slam.”
With temperatures hovering near 90 degrees, 36-year-old Djokovic survived the tournament’s longest men’s match since at least 1990 to become the oldest player to win the title. Ken Rosewall was 35 years old when he won in 1970.
At 3:49, the match was the longest best third set final in ATP history (since 1990).
The Serbian looked limp due to the high humidity towards the end of the first set, barely moving as Alcaraz hit his backhand to open the scoring.
Alcaraz, who looked fresh despite playing more than 10 hours this week, took a 4-2 lead in the second set, and it looks like the Spaniard could be on the way.
But Alcaraz created a lousy service game when he was leading 4-3, including 4 unnecessary errors to bring life to the world No. 1 player. 2.
In the tiebreak in the second set, Djokovic saved a championship point and went on to the decisive set after winning a series of 25 shots.
During the break before the third set, Alcaraz angrily banged his fist on the plastic drink container next to his chair, demanding medical time to bandage his finger.
In the deciding set, Djokovic won his fifth chance in the match to lead 4-3.
The drama will continue as Djokovic squanders two match points as he turns around and leads 5-3.
Alcaraz would save two more match points and break serve as Djokovic missed a header 5-5.
Finally, the players reached another tiebreak, which Djokovic won when the 20-year-old’s forehand return went too far.
The win is Djokovic’s 95th career title and 39th Masters 1000 crown.
“I have a lot to say, but I’m not sure I have enough energy,” Djokovic said as he cradled his trophy. He stopped and looked at Alcaraz.
“You never give up, do you?” he say. “I like that about you. I hope we meet in New York. That will be fun — for the fans, not for me.”
The US Open begins on August 28. The defending champion Alcaraz definitely holds the No. 1 spot. 1 place in the tournament.
“The match was pretty close,” Alcaraz said. “I will come back.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.