Sunday, June 13, 2021

Djokovic overcomes big deficit for French Open crown

Novak Djokovic joined Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men
to win each major tournament at least twice. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   As incredible as Novak Djokovic's physical skills are, his mental toughness is at least as impressive.
   The combination has produced probably the greatest player ever.
   Coming off a grueling victory over 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, the top-ranked Djokovic defeated upstart Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 today in 4 hours, 11 minutes in the final at Roland Garros in Paris.
   Djokovic, 34, came back from two sets down in a Grand Slam final for the first time and became the first man to win a French Open final after losing the first two sets since Gaston Gaudio of Argentina in 2004. Dominic Thiem also accomplished the feat in the U.S. Open last September.
   "I'm very proud, very happy," Djokovic, who joined Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men to win each major tournament at least twice, told reporters. "I don't want to stop here. Hopefully, I can keep on (winning) here at Roland Garros, at least one or two more times."
   Djokovic claimed his 19th Grand Slam singles title, one short of the record held by Roger Federer, who will turn 40 in August, and Nadal, 35, and moved halfway to the first calendar-year Grand Slam since Laver in 1969. Djokovic defeated Daniil Medvedev in straight sets to win the Australian Open in February.
   Djokovic is 27-23 against Federer and 30-28 against Nadal.
   Djokovic also lost the first two sets against rising star Lorenzo Musetti in the fourth round, making him the first man in the professional era to win a Grand Slam tournament after twice trailing two sets to none, according to the International Tennis Federation. The third set of his 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory over Nadal was perhaps the most electrifying ever played. 
   The fifth-seeded Tsitsipas, 22, was trying to become the first Greek to win a major singles title. He showed no sign of nerves in the first two sets and fought valiantly until the end.
   "I'd like to thank the Greek fans and my team, who are constantly behind me, for my dreams," Tsitsipas said. "This is a long journey."
   In the fifth set today, Djokovic broke serve to lead 2-1, and Tsitsipas saved two break points to hold for 3-4. Djokovic, serving at 5-4, converted his second championship point. 
   In the opening set, Djokovic saved a set point while serving at 4-5 and broke serve at 15 for 6-5. Tsitsipas broke back at 15 and led 4-0 in the tiebreaker. Djokovic fought back to earn a set point at 6-5, but Tsitsipas reeled off the next three points for the set. 
   Tsitsipas broke serve in the opening game of the second set, went up a double break at 5-2 and closed out the set with an ace. Djokovic then took one of his two allotted locker room breaks and had a talk with himself.
   "There's always two voices inside," he said. "There is one telling you that you can't do it, that it's done, it's finished. That voice was pretty strong after that second set. So I felt that that was a time for me to actually vocalize the other voice and try to suppress the first one that was saying I can't make it. I told myself I can do it. Encouraged myself. I strongly started to repeat that inside of my mind, tried to live it with my entire being."
   Djokovic took a 3-1 lead in the third set on his fifth break point of the game and served out the set. Tsitsipas then took a medical timeout to receive back treatment.
   Djokovic led 4-0 with two service breaks in the fourth set and held on for the victory. 
   Earlier today, Barbora Krejcikova became the first woman to sweep the French Open singles and doubles titles since Mary Pierce in 2000. Krejcikova and fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova, seeded second, beat 14th-seeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Iga Swiatek, last year's singles champion at 19, of Poland 6-4, 6-2.

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