Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic set up a potentially era-defining Wimbledon title showdown after cruising through their semi-finals on Friday with the Serb superstar promising a “feast” of tennis in the championship match.
World number one and US Open winner Alcaraz, playing only his fourth grass-court tournament, defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
Djokovic, the reigning Australian Open and French Open champion, reached his ninth final at the All England Club and record 35th at the Grand Slams by seeing off Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
On Sunday, the 36-year-old world number two will attempt to equal Roger Federer’s mark of eight Wimbledon titles and Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors.
Djokovic defeated Alcaraz in the French Open semi-finals in June with the Spaniard admitting the stress of facing the Serb had caused severe body cramps that undermined his performance.
“I believe I can beat Djokovic,” said 20-year-old Alcaraz, who was still three months shy of his fifth birthday when Djokovic won his first Slam title in Australia in 2008.
“Everyone knows the legend he is. I will fight. I will believe in myself. There’s no time to be afraid, no time to be tired.”
Djokovic believes his experience in Slam finals will be a key factor but remains wary of the flamboyant shotmaker.
“He’s in great shape. He’s very motivated. He’s young. He’s hungry. I’m hungry, too, so let’s have a feast,” he said.
Alcaraz only won seven games when he suffered a straight sets loss to Medvedev at Wimbledon just two years ago.
Back then, however, he was 75 in the world while Medvedev was at number two in the rankings.
On Friday, serve dominated the opener until Alcaraz converted a break point for a 5-3 lead which he backed-up with a love service game.
Medvedev had his only break point snuffed out in the second game of the second set and US Open champion Alcaraz pounced again in the third on his way to a convincing lead.
Alcaraz was a break to the good for a 2-0 lead in the third set before four successive breaks gave the finale a sloppy appearance.
The Spaniard, however, steadied himself, moving into his first Wimbledon final with a spectacular running forehand, his 27th winner of the match.
Djokovic’s victory over Sinner was tinged with controversy when he was penalised for hindrance and warned for slow play in the same game during the second set.
Djokovic, playing in his 12th Wimbledon semi-final, fought off three break points in the first set while only needing one of his own in the second game to secure the opener.
The 36-year-old had declared himself favourite for the title on the eve of the semi-final and he backed up that confidence with another break of the Italian for a 2-1 lead in the second set.
Seven-time champion Djokovic stretched to a 3-1 lead in a bizarre fourth game.
Firstly, he was docked a point for hindrance following a loud grunt which accompanied a down the line backhand.
Umpire Richard Haigh then handed him a code violation for taking too long between points.
“The hindrance early on in the match could have changed the course of the match. I felt nervous after that call, but I managed to re-group,” said Djokovic, the first player, man or woman, to reach 35 finals at the Slams.
“It’s probably the first time it’s happened to me, I don’t normally have extended grunts. Maybe it was an echo in the roof. It was a call that I have to respect.”
Despite that double blow, Djokovic still claimed the set courtesy of his seventh ace of the contest against a player who took a two-sets lead against him in the quarter-finals last year before the champion pulled through in five.
Djokovic squandered three break points in the third game of the third set, then saved two set points in the 10th game.
‘Thirty-six Is New 36’
He turned on his tormentors in the crowd, who were loudly supporting Sinner, by feigning mock tears after he dashed their hopes of a breakthrough for the Italian.
Djokovic then dominated the tie-break to preserve his 10-year undefeated record on Centre Court. He has won 34 matches in a row at the event.
“I feel 36 is the new 26, it feels pretty good. I feel a lot of motivation,” he said.
Sinner warned Alcaraz not to be intimidated by Djokovic in Sunday’s final.
“If you think how big he is, you struggle,” he said.