The Western & Southern Open final will be played out on Sunday when the ATP Cincinnati event comes to a close as Carlos Alcaraz meets Novak Djokovic to determine the winner of the latest Masters 1000 tournament.
These two met in the Wimbledon final last month which Alcaraz won but it is Djokovic who goes into this contest as the favourite to pick up the last big title before we head to New York for the US Open in just over a week.
The Spanish sensation won at Wimbledon last month but even though he has made this final you would be stretching things to suggest he has looked particularly convincing since then. It is a sign of the quality that he has though that he has made it through to the final without his best tennis. This is his eighth final of 2023 so being competitive on a Sunday is becoming second nature to him which can never be a bad thing.
Alcaraz has been taken the distance in every one of his matches this week. That probably isn’t an issue from a physical standpoint because he is young and vibrant as well as energetic but it does suggest he isn’t hitting the ball all that well and that is the bigger concern for him ahead of this final. He isn’t the favourite for this match though so that might free him up to swing from the hip and at least get himself into the final.
You wouldn’t have thought that this was the first time Novak Djokovic has played in America since he was defaulted from the US Open a few years ago given the way he has played this week. The Serb has picked up as if he has never been away and although he entered the tournament teetering as the second favourite in the outright market, such is the way he has won his matches, the layers have firmly installed him as favourite for yet another Masters 1000 title.
Djokovic was fortunate along the way that Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who looked at the time like he could cause some issues, had to retire through injury but since then he has taken care of Gael Monfils, Taylor Fritz and Alexander Zverev without too much fuss and looks the man to beat. You sense these two could meet again at the US Open in the final there so Djokovic might be keen to lay something of a marker down here.
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These two men have met on three previous occasions with Carlos Alcaraz coming out on top on two of those meetings while Djokovic has one win. There is an asterisk attached to the Djokovic win which was at the French Open earlier this year as Alcaraz was looking like making his move having levelled at 1-1 before cramp set in and he was unable to put up any sort of challenge from there. This will be the second final they have faced each other in after having met at the Wimbledon final last month. This will be their first hard court meeting so history would favour Alcaraz but the hard court factor might level it up.
I suspect for as long as this is a rivalry this pair will bring the best out of each other like the greats in any sport generally do. The two Carlos Alcaraz wins in their previous trilogy both came via a deciding set and there is every chance their French Open semi-final which was won by Djokovic would have gone the distance too had cramp not hampered the Spaniard physically. That makes me think we are in for a lengthy final here and one which could easily need a third set.
The caveat is that Alcaraz would need to improve but I just wonder if he has saved something in the previous matches having yet to face a top 10 player in the tournament, knowing that he might need to overcome the challenge of Djokovic to win this match. Djokovic will give this all he has both as a bit of revenge for Wimbledon but also to prove he is the one to beat in New York in just eight days from now. I’m expecting a high quality punch and counter punch final which has more than 22.5 games in it.
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