By Sigurd Neubauer
In a grueling match that lasted four hours and 42 minutes, Carlos Alcaraz, 20, defeated Novak Djokovic, 36, 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.
Djokovic has won 23 Grand Slam titles: the most of any male player in the history of the game, including at the recent French Open and before that at the 2023 Australian Open. Alcaraz, for his part, secured his second Grand Slam victory, which now includes Wimbledon and the 2022 US Open.
Commenting on whether Alcaraz’s victory at Center Court marks a generational shift in the world of men’s tennis, Vesa Ponkka, the President of the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC), reveals that he’s been waiting for this moment for the past three years.
Ponkka, who is also one of America’s preeminent coaches, is nonetheless hesitant to count out Djokovic “as there’s always a chance that he comes back to win more Grand Slams. The Serb has proven me wrong before,” the JTCC President argues, but emphasizes that the Spaniard is “expected to win many more Slams.”
Alcaraz defeated Djokovic on his preferred surface: grass. Photo credit: Wimbledon
Djokovic was visibly nervous during a tiebreaker in the second set: Ponkka
Responding to what changed for the Spaniard, who lost to the Serb in the French Open semifinal this past June at Roland-Garros, Ponkka attributes it to what he describes “as a learning process,” which is to say that Alcaraz’s loss “was a price he had to pay as part of his natural progression. In the end, he won big at Wimbledon.”
As the defending Wimbledon champion, Djokovic has not only won the tournament a staggering seven times, but he’s in the process made grass his preferred surface. “He has so much experience at Wimbledon, which is why it was so significant that Alcaraz defeated him there,” the veteran coach explains.
Ponkka also attributes Alcaraz’s victory to the tie-braker in the second set. “Had Djokovic won it, it would have been over for Alcaraz as the Serb twice struggled to return a serve with his [legendary] backhand. Djokovic never makes these kinds of mistakes, which suggest that he was nervous.”
The JTCC President goes further by arguing that Alcaraz didn’t win the tiebreaker, but that it was Djokovic who lost it. “This cost him the title,” he explains as the Serb was ultimately unable to reverse his opponent’s momentum.
Djokovic is expected to participate in the upcoming US Open after the U.S. government has lifted pandemic era restrictions barring unvaccinated foreigners from participating. He didn’t participate in last year’s tournament, which Alcaraz won. The Spaniard, who is vaccinated, is expected to participate this year as well.
“The question is whether the two of them will participate in any of the upcoming ‘warm-up’ tournaments for the hardcourt season,” Ponkka says, referring specifically to the Mubadala Citi DC Open, the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the National Bank Open in Canada.
“On hardcourts, there are eight to 10 people who can potentially win the US Open; Alcaraz and Djokovic remain favorites,” the JTCC President says, but describes the tournament as “the toughest one for Djokovic to win partly because of the role the crowd plays.” At Wimbledon, in contrast, only a few players can win,” which is why Alcaraz’s victory there was so significant, he reiterates.
The veteran coach expects Americans to do well at the US Open, including the country’s top players; Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafo; the latter is a JTCC graduate who Ponkka knows well.
Among the American players who did well at Wimbledon was Christopher Eubanks, 27, who defeated Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas during the fourth round in what became the tournament’s most significant upset.
Commenting on his performance, which generated significant media coverage, Ponkka reveals that the American has “been knocking on the door for the past year and a half,” adding that“his game fits grass beautifully” but with his newfound fame “everyone knows who he is as he won’t be able to surprise anyone anymore.”
Eubanks has since climbed to a career-high of No. 31.
Vesa Ponkka is one of America’s preeminent tennis coaches. Photo credit: Courtesy
Social media following
New data reveals that Alcaraz has gained over 530,000 Instagram followers in a single day after winning at Wimbledon.
Research conducted by CasinoAlpha.com examined his social media statistics to establish the growth in following before and after his first Wimbledon title. His follower count is now at 3.4 million as of Monday July 17, up from 2.8 million before Alcaraz’s victory.
“Winning the Wimbledon men’s final and becoming the third youngest person to win the title has already benefited Alcaraz with a boost in his social media influence and earning potential. Wimbledon is considered one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious tennis tournaments, with a massive following and after defeating Djokovic, Alcaraz’s victory will go down in Wimbledon history. Whilst Alcaraz was already ranked as one of the top tennis players as well as winning the 2022 US Open, this victory at Wimbledon is sure to bring even more sponsorship and attention to the 20-year-old player.”
Markéta Vondroušová of the Czeck Republic made history as the first unseeded woman to win Wimbledon. She handedly defeated Ons Jabeur 6-4 6-4, a crowd favorite in the final.
While Ponkka describes Vondroušová as “an excellent player,” he doesn’t see her as someone who will win three or four Grand Slams; “she’s a top 10 player.” The JTCC President considers Iga Świątek; Aryna Sabalenka; and Elena Rybakina to be the top three WTA players who each are expected to win many more Slams.
Commenting on the Wimbledon final itself, the veteran coach notes that Tunisia’s Jabeur choked during key moments in the match, which Vondroušová took advantage of.
For Jabeur, who has become an Arab icon in her own right known for her joie de vivre and grace on-and-off-court, was a favorite this year as well as last. She’s also one of the most well-liked players on the WTA tour.
“She choked because of the significant internal pressure she had put on herself as well as being the favorite to win the tournament.” Ponkka doesn’t think that her momentum is over as he describes her as “a fighter” as well as one of the best in the world, predicting that she will get another chance to win a Grand Slam. “If she ends up winning one, she will learn how to handle the internal pressure.”
Jabeur choked during the final, which Vondroušová capitalized on