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Wimbledon: Carlos Alcaraz raises curtain on new era and Marketa Vondrousova amplifies depth of women's talent

Carlos Alcaraz announced a new era for men's tennis as he ripped the Wimbledon crown from Novak Djokovic in a blockbuster final on Centre Court; Marketa Vondrousova meanwhile became the latest first-time champion on a fascinating women's scene with victory over a heartbroken Ons Jabeur

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates with the Wimbledon men's trophy

He came and conquered. The bucket hat-donning Spaniard with the audacious drop-shots and the ripping forehands. The new phenom of men's tennis and slayer of Novak Djokovic's grass throne. Carlos 'Carlitos' Alcaraz.

There had long been a feeling a star was upon us. But how big was this so-called star without 'the big three' to serve as a measuring tool? Big enough to overcome Casper Ruud and be crowned US Open champion, big enough to play his way to world No 1. But big enough to outlast, outclass, ruffle and repel a peak Novak Djokovic hurtling towards Calendar Slam history?

Yep, that big.

Sky Sports announce all-star line-up for US Open
Sky Sports announce all-star line-up for US Open

Tennis returns to Sky Sports with live coverage of the US Open. Sky Sports will have access to all individual court feeds, broadcasting a minimum of 135 hours, with Martina Navratilova, Tim Henman, Johanna Konta and Laura Robson

Weeks ago Alcaraz admitted the stress of competing against Djokovic had contributed to the cramps he suffered during his French Open defeat to the Serbian, whose aura of inevitability lingered at the height of its powers with his favoured All England Club and a 24th Grand Slam crown in sight.

A quick-learning Alcaraz cut a new figure of authority across the fortnight at SW19, his mental resilience as potent as his incredible ball-striking en route to a final in which he blind-eyed the storied success of the man staring him down and went toe-to-toe with the tennis great.

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Carlos Alcaraz lifted the Wimbledon trophy in front of fans at Wimbledon after beating Novak Djokovic in an epic five-set thriller

Others would have folded in the face of a 1-6 first-set deficit. Others would have succumbed to Djokovic's might in what became a 26-minute break of serve consisting of 13 deuces. Others would have surrendered to Djokovic's winning streak of 15 straight tiebreaks. Others would have given in to the mind games of Djokovic's six-minute bathroom break between sets. Alcaraz is not like the 'others'.

Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig and Emma Watson watched on as Alcaraz shredded the script and formed his own picket in defiance of an imperious Djokovic. King Felipe of Spain watched on wondering how he and his nation could ever be so lucky as to transition from Rafa to Carlos.

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Cries of "Come on Carlitos" would come from the travelling Spaniards dotted around Centre Court as they willed him towards glory down a tense home stretch, Alcaraz previously explaining how he disliked being called 'Carlos' as it felt too serious and as though he was being shouted at. Carlitos is the giddy kid with the beaming smile and the ferocious ground strokes. The giddy kid who could have only dreamed of sharing a stage with a champion of Djokovic's calibre.

Alcaraz disrupted, rattled if you will, the Djokovic mindset unlike any opponent in recent years, not by way of malice or gamesmanship but by the infectious daring that, coupled with the enthusiasm surrounding a prospective change to the norm, appeared to haul the Centre Court fans in his favour.

The fifth set became unfiltered Alcaraz as he mesmerised with sprinklings of the ludicrous baseline drop-shots that had fallen flat for him earlier in the match, while slapping devastating cross-court forehands wide of Djokovic's racquet face as the Serbian sought to make his move to the net in an attempt to close off the angles. Alcaraz makes his own angles.

Djokovic had been disgruntled by time violation warnings and a fiery crowd that at times painted him as their pantomime villain, and frustration spilled over after a defining break in the final stanza when he clattered his racquet into the post of the net. Cue boos.

How about Alcaraz the match-closer, then? Tick, tick and tick. He retained his composure in the face of pressure like nothing he had ever experienced before to serve out the match having posted 18 winners to five unforced errors in the final set.

Upon departing Wimbledon on a rainy Sunday night, the question was less of who would spearhead things once Djokovic and Nadal join Federer in retirement, and more so a question of who might be capable of staying in touch with Alcaraz.

He barely switched gears against rising star Holger Rune in the quarters and produced a clinic to dismantle world No 3 Daniil Medvedev in the semis, he has beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas in all five of their meetings and Ruud in all three meetings. Could Jannik Sinner, who beat Alcaraz at Wimbledon last year, present himself as a worthy rival? Lorenzo Musetti? Felix Auger-Aliassime? The bar has been set.

For now, Djokovic is not going anywhere. And though the Calendar Slam opportunity may have come and gone, those not named Carlos Alcaraz continue to have their work cut out against a man who until Sunday had been gliding across the court as if he had a tip-off on his opponent's next shot.

Alcaraz snapped a 21-year stretch of no player other than Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray winning the men's title at Wimbledon, snapped Djokovic's 45-game unbeaten run on Centre Court dating back to 2013 and becomes the youngest men's champion since Boris Becker in 1985. As glaring an indicator the tennis world has received yet that it has a new kind of special on its hands.

Vondrousova underlines depth of women's talent

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Marketa Vondrousova says she's been on a 'great journey' after winning her maiden Grand Slam with a surprise victory over Ons Jabeur in the Wimbledon final

Forgive lulls in frequent triumph, refrain from counting on individual dominance and instead celebrate the deep pool of talent fuelling the unpredictable nature of the post-Serena Williams era in women’s tennis. Ash Barty’s warnings of sustained dominance culminated in an earned if not early retirement, Iga Swiatek, currently the closest thing to a runaway leader, continues to remain fallible on grass and four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is out of action after recently giving birth to her first child.

Enter Marketa Vondrousova, who would inflict further heartbreak, for now, on three-time beaten Slam finalist Ons Jabeuer by becoming the first unseeded player to win Wimbledon in the Open Era. The tricky Czech represents the 16th different Grand Slam women’s champion since Serena’s last title at the 2017 Australian Open, arriving back a year on from sitting in the stands as a spectator at the All England Club amid her recovery from wrist surgery. It is an overdue announcement for Vondrousova, who teased stardom at 19 when she reached the French Open final against Barty four years ago before also seeing off Osaka and Elina Svitolina on her way to a runner-up finish at the Tokyo Olympics, the newly-crowned champion this week joking how her mother had lamented about watching her finish second on multiple occasions. Wimbledon is her springboard to frequent contention among the more household names. Another new winner, another fresh strand to an evolving and shape-shifting women’s race. We are all for more tales of Frankie the cat and Vondrousova wagering tattoos with her coach.

British disappointment - but a new talent on the horizon?

Andy Murray
Image: Andy Murray was knocked out by Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas

There was homegrown success on the final day of the Championships as 17-year-old Henry Searle became the first British boys' single champion at Wimbledon since 1962. Searle, who is from Wolverhampton, beat fifth seed Yaroslav Demin 6-4 6-4 on Court No 1 to continue his streak of having not dropped a set in the tournament, during which he also garnered some added attention with a 134 mph serve. Elsewhere it had been a lacklustre campaign for the Brits involved, with Cameron Norrie, Liam Broady - who recorded the biggest win of his career over Ruud before losing to Denis Shapovalov - and Andy Murray all being knocked out in the space of two hours on the Friday of the opening week. British No 1 Katie Boulter became the final hope as she reached the third round only to fall to Rybakina 6-1 6-1, while Neil Skupski clinched the men's doubles, Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid the wheelchair doubles and Mark Ceban the 14-and-under competition. Murray had been marking the 10th anniversary of his famous Wimbledon triumph, his tournament coming to an end in a five-set defeat to Tsitsipas, after which he admitted he currently had no plans to walk away as ever-familiar questions loom over how much longer the Scot will play on.

Jabeur’s wait continues

A tearful Jabeur holds her runners-up trophy after losing to Marketa Vondrousova in the Wimbledon final
Image: A tearful Jabeur holds her runners-up trophy after losing to Marketa Vondrousova in the Wimbledon final

It’s coming. It has to be. Ons Jabeur was dealt one of the harshest reminders of what a cruel and lonely sport tennis can be as she fell to defeat in the Wimbledon final for the second straight year, having also been forced to settle for second best at the US Open. The Tunisian's dreams of becoming a first Arab and North African Grand Slam champion remain on hold after falling well short of her top form in defeat to Vondrousova, who had dealt Jabeur some of her own medicine with glorious touch on backhand slices and her net game. Jabeur was able to take comfort from the fact that Chrissie Evert, Simona Halep and Kim Clijsters all lost their first three Grand Slam finals before eventually ending their wait to win a title later on in their respective careers. The drop-shot artist vowed to "make it one day" at the All England Club, where disappointment was shared among a Wimbledon fan base that has adopted the 28-year-old as one of their own such is the delightful invention and expression with which she plays. Jabeur had quashed the demons of last year's final with victory over defending champion Elena Rybakina before coming from behind to take down the power of Aryna Sabalenka, only for the pressure to tell against a remarkably nonchalant Vondrousova. She is getting closer.

The new resident Eubank…s

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Despite losing in five sets to Daniil Medvedev in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, Christopher Eubanks was in good spirits after surpassing expectations in London

Christopher Eubanks, remember the name… again. Quizzed on his namesake, the American admitted this week he had limited knowledge of the British icon, other than that he was a handy boxer and that he dressed ‘sharp’. This Eubanks, the one that is handy with a racquet, emerged as one of the surprise and loveable stories of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships with his crashing serve and thumping ground strokes as he knocked out Cameron Norrie and Stefanos Tstisipas, who had just beaten Andy Murray, before coming up just shy in a five-set epic against Daniil Medvedev. The latter saw him record 321 winners, breaking Andre Agassi’s record set back in 1992. It is something of a late rise to recognition for the 27-year-old, who having been sat on the outside looking in at the top 100 last year now looks due to rise to No 31 in the world rankings. Success at Wimbledon meanwhile raises his profile heading into the US Open at the end of the summer. The kind of absorbing character always welcome at the All England Club.

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