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Serbian warrior Djokovic battles back to beat Tsitsipas in French Open final thriller and match 52-year landmark

Making a maiden appearance in a Grand Slam final and becoming the first Greek ever to play at this stage of a major tournament, the 22-year-old Tsitsipas seemed on course for a shock victory when he opened up a two-set lead over the world number one.

But as many have found out before, Djokovic’s stamina is perhaps the greatest tennis has ever witnessed and the Serb fought back to take the final to a decisive set – the fist time it has gone the distance at Roland-Garros since 2004 – before getting the job done 6-7 (6-8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to claim a 19th Grand Slam title.

Djokovic, 34, also became the first man in 52 years to win all four Grand Slam titles twice – something neither of his GOAT rivals Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal have achieved.

The last man to register the feat was Australian great Rod Laver in 1969, while Laver’s countryman Roy Emerson achieved the landmark two years before him. 

Djokovic added to his last Roland-Garros title won in 2016, and is now just one Grand Slam behind the all-time record men’s mark of 20 held by Nadal and Federer.  

Djokovic stands with arms raised after winning the French Open for a second time. © Reuters

Djokovic had overcome 13-time French Open king Nadal in a semi-final for the ages on Friday, but that achievement looked like going to waste as fifth seed Tsitsipas opened up a two-set lead with some inspired tennis at Court Philippe Chatrier.

At one stage Djokovic took a nasty tumble as he chased down a drop shot from his Greek rival, with the Serb sliding and then tripping, almost slamming his head into the courtside equipment.  

The top seed picked himself up and dusted himself off, and from the third set the comeback was on as a previously dejected Djokovic began to find his rhythm. 

Tsitsipas required a medical timeout after seeing Djokovic cut the deficit to two sets to one, a sign of the struggles he was facing. 

Djokovic immediately opened up a double break of serve in the fourth set before seeing it out 6-2, and then made the breakthrough in game three of the decisive stanza to lead the match for the first time. 

Tsitsipas battled valiantly and staved off match point, but Djokovic hauled himself over the line – just as he has done so many times before – to get his hands on a second title on the red clay of Paris. 

“It was an electric atmosphere. I want to thank my coach and my physio, everyone who has been with me on this journey,” Djokovic said afterwards. 

“I have played almost nine hours over the last 48 hours against two great champions, it was really tough physically over the last three days, but I trusted in my capabilities and knew I could do it.”

He also had a special message for people back home in Serbia, while there were touching scenes as Djokovic handed his racquet to a young fan in the crowd, who could barely contain his excitement at receiving the memento. 

Attention soon turns to the grass of Wimbledon for the next major of the season at the end of the month.

The All England Club is a venue where Djokovic has tasted victory five times previously, and where this year he could move into a three-way tie with rivals Nadal and Federer for the record haul of Grand Slam titles.

Following another display of iron will in France, Djokovic will be the favorite to do just that as he relentlessly pursues yet more greatness.  

© 2021, paradox. All rights reserved.

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