Djokovic tops Tsitsipas in thriller for 19th major at French Open

Published June 14, 2021
TSITSIPAS hits a backhand return to Djokovic at the Roland Garros Stadium.—AP
TSITSIPAS hits a backhand return to Djokovic at the Roland Garros Stadium.—AP

PARIS: Novak Djokovic came all the way back after dropping the first two sets to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (6-8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the French Open final on Sunday for his 19th Grand Slam title and became the first man in 52 years to win all four majors twice.

Djokovic's second trophy at Roland Garros moves him one major championship away from tying the men’s record of 20 shared by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

It also puts reigning Australian Open champion Djokovic halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam, something no man has accomplished since Rod Laver in 1969.

The 34-year-old is the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Slams on multiple occasions and just the third in history.

“It was an electric atmosphere,” said Djokovic after the four-hour 11-minute final. “It’s a dream. It’s difficult to win the title against a great player. It was a difficult three days physically and mentally.”

Djokovic eliminated 13-time French Open champion Nadal in a semi-final that lasted more than four hours Friday night. That might be why the 22-year-old Tsitsipas had the upper hand early, and Djokovic looked drained for two sets.

Eventually, though, he started making fewer mistakes, got his best-in-the-game returning on track, served almost flawlessly down the stretch and was able to complete his sixth career comeback from two sets down and second of the past week.

PARIS: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic hits a return to Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece during their French Open final on Sunday.—AP
PARIS: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic hits a return to Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece during their French Open final on Sunday.—AP

Indeed, the International Tennis Federation said Djokovic, who trailed 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti two sets to none in the fourth round, is the first man in the professional era to win a Grand Slam tournament after twice facing a 2-0 deficit in sets.

Experience could have been a factor, too.

This was the first major final for Tsitsipas and 29th for Djokovic, who also won the French Open in 2016, along with nine titles at the Australian Open, five at Wimbledon and three at the US Open.

Of just as much, if not more, significance to the ultimate outcome on Sunday: Djokovic entered the day with a 34-10 record in five-setters including a men’s-record 31 wins in Grand Slam matches of that length while Tsitsipas was 5-4.

On a sunny and breezy afternoon, with the temperature approaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit (over 25 degrees Celsius), Tsitsipas needed just over 100 minutes to grab a big lead on Sunday.

But the tenacious and talented Djokovic did not quit, grabbing early breaks in each of the last three sets.

Earlier on Sunday, Barbora Krejcikova became the first player since Mary Pierce in 2000 to win the singles and doubles titles at Roland Garros.

Krejcikova teamed with fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova to defeat Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-2 for their third Slam title together.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2021

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