Carlos Alcaraz produced another sensational display as he came from a set down to stun world No.1 Novak Djokovic and book a place in the Madrid Open final.
The 19-year-old became the first ever player to beat both Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the same event on clay as he ousted the top seed 7-6(5) 5-7 6-7(5) after an enthralling three hours and 35 minutes inside the Manolo Santana Stadium.
Alcaraz is now the second-youngest player to reach a second Masters 1000 final following his title triumph in Miami earlier this year, and will meet either Stefanos Tsitsipas or defending champion, Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s showpiece.
There was no doubt this showdown was being earmarked as a true barometer of Djokovic’s current level after such a turbulent and disrupted start to his 2022 campaign. This was only the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s 11th match of the season and he had barely been troubled en route to this stage in the Spanish capital after easing past Gael Monfils and Hubert Hurkacz with a walkover against Andy Murray sandwiched in between.
That all changed in the first game as Alcaraz claimed an immediate break with a stunning backhand pass before fending off a break-back chance to move 2-0 up.
Djokovic responded with some highly efficient serving and continued to threaten the break back, but the fearless Spaniard hit clutch mode to stay in front until the eighth game when four unforced errors allowed the 37-time Masters 1000 champion to level at 4-4.
At one point Djokovic won 21 points in succession on his own serve, but he could not secure another break as Alcaraz dug deep to force the tie break. The world No. 1 began to release his emotions as he defied the Spanish crowd by surging into a 6-2 lead. Alcaraz saved three set points, including one with another delicious drop shot, but could not deny the Serb on the fourth as he finally took the opener after one hour and two minutes of pulsating tennis.
Alcaraz responded in the right manner in the second set and began to pose a greater threat on the return. The No. 7 seed earned a break opportunity with a quite sublime drop shot but Djokovic leaned on his serve to fend off the challenge and level at 3-3.
The contest remained a tight affair heading into the business end of the set with Djokovic seeing his own break opportunity snatched away before Alcaraz sent the crowd into raptures right at the death. The youngster earned three set points on the Serb’s serve and somehow made up the ground to reach his opponent’s angled flick at the net to guide the winner up the line and push the match into a decider.
The momentum was now with the teenager and he cranked up the heat in Game 4 but Djokovic somehow staved off three break points to reach parity at 2-2. It was the same story in the top seed’s next service game as he again swatted away two break points to level.
The Serb then had his own opportunity shut down as both players dug deep in pressure situations before Alcaraz saw match point brushed aside at 5-4 by his opponent’s sixth ace of the contest.
Fittingly, this instant classic of a semi-final went right to the wire with Alcaraz coming through a tie-break decider 7-5 to clinch his sixth straight top-10 win and become just the third teenager to defeat Djokovic.