A Deep Dive Into Djokovic And Tsitsipas' Rivalry
Djokovic enters the showdown on the heels of an impressive four-set win over 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, while Tsitsipas managed to subdue Alexander Zverev in five sets. Both Djokovic and Tsitsipas have been playing some of their best clay-court tennis this season and, if their history is any indication, Sunday’s final should be a highly competitive one.
World No. 1 Djokovic sits atop the FedEx ATP Rankings and, with a win, can take first place from Tsitsipas in the calendar-year FedEx ATP Race To Turin, which this year will determine the coveted year-end World No. 1 title after the Nitto ATP Finals.
Sunday will mark Djokovic’s sixth Roland Garros final. He won the title in 2016 and if he can triumph again Sunday he will become the first man in the Open Era to complete the career Grand Slam twice. (He has won the Australian Open nine times, Wimbledon five times and the US Open three times.)
Djokovic leads their ATP Head2Head Series 5-2, with his two losses coming on hard courts in Toronto in 2018 and in Shanghai in 2019. Djokovic has won all three of their clay-court meetings and they’ve played best-of-five sets just once, at Roland Garros last year.
Below, ATPTour.com reflects on four of their seven meetings that have gone the distance.
National Bank Open Presented by Rogers 2018: Tstisipas def. Djokovic 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3
The summer of 2018 was Tsitsipas’ breakthrough when he established himself as a true threat at the top echelon of the game. At the time, the Greek was on the cusp of leaving his teens and ranked No. 27 in the world.
His third-round win over Djokovic in Toronto was a huge turning point and it proved to the world that Tsitsipas had the skillset to beat anyone. He’d go all the way to the final of the ATP Masters 1000 that year (l. to Nadal). Closing out the season by winning the NextGen ATP Finals trophy in Milan further set Tstisipas up for bigger and better things in 2019.
Rolex Shanghai Masters 2019: Tstisipas def. Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3
While Djokovic was ranked No. 1 at the time, Tstisipas was playing some of his best tennis ever in the fall of 2019. The comeback win over the Serbian in quarter-finals of Shanghai would clinch Tsitsipas’ place in the Nitto ATP Finals in London and mark Tsitsipas’ first win over a World No. 1.
A few weeks later, Tsitsipas would surprise many by winning the season finale for his biggest title yet. He’d finish the year inside of the Top 10 for the first time.
Roland Garros 2020: Djokovic def. Tstisipas, 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1
In the semi-finals of Roland Garros in October, Djokovic had full control over Tsitsipas by leading two sets to love and holding a match point in the third set. Instead of running away with the win, the 34-year-old let the Greek back in the match.
Initially, the Serbian's defense and court coverage was too much for Tsitsipas, who was pressured to go for riskier shots. Instead of slipping away in the third set, Tsitsipas dug in and began firing more consistently, particularly off his backhand wing, to get himself back in the match. Despite the drama, Djokovic never looked like he was down and stayed calm to run away with the fifth set. He would hit 56 winners for his 37th win in 38 matches.
It was just Tsitsipas’ second major semi-final appearance, while a fatigued Djokovic would come up flat against Nadal in the final, losing in straight sets.
Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2021: Djokovic def. Tstitsipas 4-6, 7-5, 7-5
This year's clay-court swing has been Tsitsipas’ best showing ever. The World No. 5 picked up his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo and added a second clay crown in Lyon, leading the tour with 39 wins in 2021.
Despite all of that red-hot momentum, Djokovic managed to subdue him in Rome on his way to the final for his fourth win in a row over the Greek. Due to rain, their semi-final battle played out across two days, and Tsitsipas twice led by a break in the deciding set, even serving for the match at 5-4.