Carlos Alcaraz
Spain's Carlos Alcaraz is seen as the main rival to defending champion Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon AFP / SEBASTIEN BOZON

World no. 1 Carlos Alcaraz appeared to need all the favours he can get from the heavens while playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon on Saturday, as he fought hard to overcome Nicolas Jarry in the third round of The Championships. The Spaniard clasped his hands together and looked up at the heavens a number of times during the match, and he let out a resounding "Vamos!!! (Come on!)" to express his relief and exhilaration after winning the match, (6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5).

It took the Spaniard nearly four hours to overcome his opponent, and he was visibly suffering at several moments especially against the Chilean's highly accurate and fast first serve. Even though Alcaraz is the favourite to challenge defending champion Novak Djokovic for this year's Wimbledon title, he clearly needed to bring out his A-game against his unheralded opponent.

However, he was the first to commend Jarry's performances both at Wimbledon and when they played against each other at the Rio de Janeiro Open in February. Alcaraz won both matches, but he recognises a worthy opponent when he sees one.

"It was really, really tough. Nico is a really good player and he played really well. In Rio it was very difficult, today too," he said after the match during the customary press conference.

At one point in the second set, Jarry took a 4-1 lead and Alcaraz really had to fight tooth and nail to force a tie-break before eventually losing the set. "He deserves to be at the top and I am just really happy with the level I played. I had to stay focused. I knew that I would have my chances. It was really, really close. I am very happy for the victory and for advancing in the round, for receiving so much energy from the people, thank you very much to everyone," said the Spaniard.

He also added that a small mistake from Jarry in the third set allowed him to find an opening. However, he needed to focus on every point in order to succeed against his opponent, who played a solid game for most of the evening. "The key is to believe and stay focused all the time," added Alcaraz.

The current world no. 1 took back the top ranking after winning the Queen's tournament last month, and he is hoping to stay there and ahead of Novak Djokovic after the dust settles at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

The Serb is looking to secure a record 24th Grand Slam title, and his eighth Wimbledon victory. Meanwhile, the young Spaniard is chasing his maiden Wimbledon win after having already secured his first major title at the 2022 US Open. He missed the Australian Open due to injury, and succumbed at the French Open semi-finals to Djokovic.

An Alcaraz versus Djokovic final at Wimbledon is anticipated, but both of them will need to get there first. While Djokovic hasn't broken a sweat and has yet to drop a single set in the tournament so far, while Alcaraz already struggled slightly against Alexandre Muller on Friday before the tough match against Jarry.

Things won't get easier moving forward, with 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini waiting for him in the next round. The Italian overcame Alexander Zverev in straight sets in the third round, and will be salivating at the prospect of knocking out the top seed.

Regardless of the outcome, Alcaraz is only just 20 years old. He still shows a lot of nerves when playing the big games, but he has a lot of time to gain confidence and experience. For now, he is enjoying his Wimbledon experience and is happy enough to be living the dream. "I have seen many videos of the legends and the epic games that have been played here. I'm very happy to be able to play on this court, it's something I dreamed of since I started playing. It feels special, this court is the most beautiful court I have played on," he said.