To suggest the final at the Cincinnati Open, an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, the seventh such event of the year, was a remarkable epic, would not do the match justice. Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz turned on an epic that lasted three hours 49 minutes. It was extraordinary and gripping tennis as both men saved championship points. This was one of those matches where it was a shame the title could not be shared.
Novak eventually claimed the title in a match that could have been likened to the rollercoaster at Kings Island amusement park across the highway from the tennis facility. It ended when Alcaraz sent a crosscourt forehand wide on Djokovic's fifth championship point.
"It's tough to describe, it's definitely one of the toughest matches I have played in my life, regardless what tournament, what category, what level, what player," Djokovic said. "It was unbelievable from the beginning to the end.
"Overall, it was one of the toughest and most exciting matches I have been a part of. These are the kind of moments and matches that I continue to work for day in and day out. I was never in doubt that I could deliver the A game when it mattered the most and I'm just thrilled."
The conditions were stifling as it often is in the mid-west of the USA during the summer. Both players were using ice towels on the change of ends and early in the second set Djokovic received treatment from the medical staff because of the conditions.
Alcaraz went up 3-1 in the second set, but Djokovic levelled the set in the eighth game. In the tiebreak Alcaraz held championship point at 6-7 on the Djokovic but the Serb saved that. The Spaniard doing the same four times in the final set. The tennis was glorious to watch, right down to the final point as Djokovic collapsed on his back on the court and on getting up, after shaking hands with his emotional 20-year-old opponent, proceeded to rip his shirt in a manner that would have impressed The Hulk.
This match was their third this year. In the past months they have also played at the French Open in the semis and at Wimbledon in the final; the head-to-head is now 2-2.
"Exhausted. No, I feel proud of myself, honestly," Alcaraz said with his familiar smile. "I talking and I don't know why I was crying because I fight until the last ball. I almost beat one of the greatest of all time from our sport. It's crazy to talk about it right now, but I left the court really, really happy what I did. Of course, I've been talking with my coach, my team, that we are so, so proud of ourselves."
Novak was full of his praise for Carlos who was playing his fifth straight three setter and has saved match point against Hubert Hurkacz: "This rivalry just gets better and better. He is an amazing player; tons of respect for him. For such a young player to show so much poise in important moments is impressive."
The championship is the third in Cincinnati for Djokovic - he has won all nine of the Masters 1000's at least three times except the Rolex Monte Carlos Masters where he has two, it is his 39th Masters 1000 and his 95th career title. He now has 1,069 match wins in his career which makes him sole third behind Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer.
Interestingly the age differential of 15.95 years is a tournament final record - Carlos 20, Novak 36. The previous record was in 1970 between Ken Rosewall and Cliff Richey and by winning Novak replaces Ken as the tournament's oldest champion.
The doubles title was won by Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni who beat Jamie Murray and Michael Venus 3-6, 6-1, 11/9.