For 15 years, Djokovic dedicated his career to being better than them — not just for one match or one tournament, but forever.
Now that his rivals are on their way out, Djokovic has gone on the hunt for new motivation. He has already largely vanquished one generation of future stars — Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov, who generally crumble against him in the Grand Slam events, half-beaten by his aura and his past domination of them before his first forehand sharply angles across the court.
“In the pressure moments, he was playing very good, not missing,” Sinner said. “That’s him.”
Now he has another Grand Slam title in his sights, and the 20-something upstarts want to topple him before he eventually exits the game. He doesn’t often speak of taking any special pleasure from beating players whose legs have so many fewer miles than his do, players who really should be sending off an opponent in the second half of his thirties. But he did just that, briefly, earlier in the week, after beating Rublev, who is 25 and put up a solid effort in the quarterfinals, losing in four sets.
“They want to win, but it ain’t happening still,” Djokovic said on the court when it was over.
Now comes Alcaraz for the second time in five weeks. In the French Open semifinal, an overstressed Alcaraz suffered nearly paralyzing full-body cramps.
Now, the 20-year-old Spanish star, the only player younger than 27 with a Grand Slam title, gets another chance against an even more relaxed Djokovic, playing his ninth Wimbledon final. Alcaraz has played only 12 matches at Wimbledon in his life.
“He’s young, he’s hungry — I’m hungry too,” Djokovic said. “Let’s have a feast.”