How Djokovic Rallied From The Brink To Beat Tsitsipas
Novak Djokovic made a stunning comeback in the Roland Garros final on Sunday afternoon when he rallied past fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to lift his 19th Grand Slam trophy.
The World No. 1 was in deep trouble as the 22-year-old Tsitsipas played near-flawless tennis in the first two sets, attacking at every opportunity and seizing the moment in his first major championship match. But Djokovic showed incredible resilience to claim his second title at the clay-court major after four hours and 11 minutes.
This was the sixth time Djokovic has come back from two sets down and the first time he has done it in a Grand Slam final. The top seed battled from two sets down against Lorenzo Musetti in the fourth round, produced a masterclass to eliminate 13-time champion Rafael Nadal in a four-set semi-final, and he completed his fortnight with this thrilling fight-back against Tsitsipas.
Grand Slam Men's Singles Champions with Multiple Comebacks from 2 Sets Down@DjokerNole at 2021 @RolandGarros— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) June 13, 2021
Ted Schroeder at 1949 @Wimbledon
Henri Cochet* at 1927 Wimbledon
* Cochet rallied from 2 sets down in QF, SF and final at 1927 Wimbledon
Djokovic's Two-Set Comebacks
|2021 Roland Garros Final||Stefanos Tsitsipas|
|2021 Roland Garros R4||Lorenzo Musetti|
|2015 Wimbledon R4||Kevin Anderson|
|2012 Roland Garros R4||Andreas Seppi|
|2011 US Open SF||Roger Federer|
|2005 Wimbledon R2||Guillermo Garcia-Lopez|
Djokovic joins four other players in the Open Era — Bjorn Borg (1974), Ivan Lendl (1984), Andre Agassi (1999) and Gaston Gaudio (2004) — who have recovered from two sets down in the Roland Garros final. The only player to accomplish the feat at another Grand Slam in the Open Era was Dominic Thiem in last year's US Open final.
The World No. 1 is now within one major title of his great rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, on the all-time list. He is the first player to win the Career Grand Slam twice in the Open Era. Djokovic is also halfway to the calendar-year Grand Slam.
It was an impressive turnaround after Tsitsipas sprinted into a dominant position without showing any nerves in his maiden major final. The 22-year-old was in danger of losing the first set when Djokovic served for the set at 6-5, and he faced a set point at 5/6 in the tie-break. But the fifth seed played daring, attacking tennis to take control against the 2016 champion from there. The question was if he would be able to maintain his high level for the entire match.
The turning point came in the fourth game of the third set. Tsitsipas played courageously to save the first four break points he faced in the game, but he missed a backhand wide on Djokovic's fifth break chance to give the top seed the lead in the set, and he never let slip the momentum.
Djokovic significantly decreased his unforced errors to force the Greek to close out the final with aggression. But the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion was unable to stay on top of the baseline as often as he did in the first two sets. The top seed used his serve to great effect to remain in control of points, and he did not face a break point in the final three sets.
Djokovic never panicked. He remained composed and used great depth and variety — including plenty of drop shots — to storm to his victory.
Infosys Stats - Djokovic v Tsitsipas
|Stat||Novak Djokovic||Stefanos Tsitsipas|
|1st-Serve Pts Won||78% (71/91)||67% (73/109)|
|2nd-Serve Pts Won||53% (23/43)||50% (34/68)|
|Return Pts Won||40% (70/177)||30% (40/134)|
|Net Pts Won||63% (19/30)||61% (19/31)|
|Break Pts Converted||31% (5/16)||38% (3/8)|
At the start of the match, Tsitsipas locked in after hitting a double fault long on the first point of the match. He earned his first set point in the opener at 5-4, but Djokovic found a way to squeak through a nervous 25-shot rally.
Despite dropping serve against Djokovic's mounting pressure, Tsitsipas did not relent. He took advantage of the Serbian's dipping first-serve percentage at the end of the set to step into the court and push the World No. 1 around the court. Until that point, the top seed's high first-serve percentage had allowed him to cruise through service games and keep the Greek far behind the baseline, despite one point in which he stumbled while chasing a drop shot and nearly collided with court signage next to the net.
Tsitsipas crushed 18 winners in the opener and took advantage of a momentary lapse in Djokovic's concentration at the end of the set. Djokovic laced a forehand return down the middle on his set point, but Tsitsipas stayed calm and hit a forehand winner into the open court, eliciting a racquet clap from the top seed.
When Tsitsipas was able to move closer to the baseline and take big swings, he did well to control play and avoid making too many unforced errors. The seven-time ATP Tour titlist capitalised on Djokovic's lull in the first game of the second set by breaking immediately when the 34-year-old missed a forehand long. The Serbian missed a forehand in the net later in the set to give the Greek another service break, which was plenty to take a two-set lead.
The top seed was far sharper in the early stages than he was when he fell behind Nadal 0-5 in the semi-finals. But his missed opportunity to serve out the opener was critical, and his level dipped further to fall behind two sets.
But Tsitsipas made 11 unforced errors in the third set — compared to 12 for the first two sets combined — to give Djokovic life. The Serbian cut down his mistakes to begin his comeback. And once he converted his fifth break point in the fourth game of the third set, the tone of the clash changed. Suddenly, Tsitsipas was not playing as freely and going after his shots. It settled into a battle of wills from behind the baseline, right where Djokovic wanted it.
In the fourth set, the Serbian dominated on serve to keep the pressure on the Greek. He lost only three service points in the set. Tsitsipas did not make as many unforced errors, but that was due in large part to the World No. 1 controlling the action. After securing an early break, Djokovic earned a second for security with a perfect drop shot and he closed out the set without an issue to force a decider as shadows crept over Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Much like he did against Alexander Zverev in the fifth set of their semi-final, Tsitsipas dug out of a service hole in the first game of the decider. This time, however, Djokovic did not let the Greek run away with the momentum.
At 1-1, Tsitsipas relinquished the deciding service break when he was unable to handle a backhand pickup. The fifth seed held his nerve at 2-4 to avoid going down a double-break, but Djokovic was too dominant on serve for the Greek to find a breakthrough.
These two clashed in a memorable semi-final on the Parisian clay last year. Djokovic sprinted to a two-set lead, before Tsitsipas mounted a spirited comeback in pursuit of his first major final. The World No. 1 locked down in the decider to advance to the championship match after three hours and 54 minutes.
Djokovic leads Tsitsipas 6-2 in their ATP Head2Head series and he has won their four clay-court clashes. No other player in the Open Era has completed the Australian Open-Roland Garros double twice, but Djokovic has now done it, as he also won the year’s first two majors in 2016.
A victory would have made Tsitsipas the youngest major singles champion since 20-year-old Juan Martin del Potro triumphed at the 2009 US Open and the first Greek Grand Slam singles champion. He became the youngest Slam finalist since 22-year-old Andy Murray at the 2010 Australian Open.
Tsitsipas defeated World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals, and he was attempting to become the ninth man in the Open Era to beat both the top two seeds at a major.