Djokovic Comeback Seals Historic Roland Garros Victory
Down two sets, but never down and out. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic completed a mammoth turnaround in the Roland Garros final on Sunday to take down Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 and lift his second Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy – his 19th Grand Slam triumph.
The victory also sealed a historic feat for Djokovic, making him the first player in the Open Era – and only the third player in history – to achieve the career Grand Slam twice. Roy Emerson and Rod Laver are the only men to have won each Grand Slam on two or more occasions.
“Of course, I am thrilled and I'm very proud of this achievement. [Being] part of the history of the sport that I love with all my heart is always something that is very inspiring and very fulfilling for me,” Djokovic said. “I couldn't be happier and more satisfied with this kind of scenario in the last 48 hours.
“[This] probably ranks at the top three all-time achievements and experiences that I had in my professional tennis career: going through four-and-a-half battle with Rafa on his court, then bouncing back after not practicing yesterday, just coming in today with as much as recharged batteries and energy regained to fight another battle of four-and-a-half hours against Tsitsipas.”
Djokovic, who previously won the Roland Garros title in 2016, added a 19th Grand Slam trophy to his ever-growing haul. The victory narrowed the gap on 20-time champions Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the top of the list for most major men’s singles titles.
Most Grand Slam Men’s Singles Titles (all time)
|Player||Grand Slam Titles|
The World No. 1 began the season by lifting his ninth Australian Open trophy, and by claiming his second Grand Slam title in a row he remains on track for a calendar Grand Slam. In 2016, Djokovic became the first man to complete the Melbourne-Paris double since Jim Courier in 1992, and the third man in history to achieve it on multiple occasions after Laver and Emerson.
The journey to Parisian glory was anything but easy for Djokovic, who also had to battle back from two sets to love against Lorenzo Musetti in the fourth round. He then overcame arguably the biggest test of all, taking down 13-time champion Rafael Nadal in a four-set classic for a place in the final. Djokovic, who trailed 0-5 in the opening set and faced set point in the high-quality third set, needed four hours and 11 minutes to complete the 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 triumph.
It took Djokovic a few sets to find his range against Tsitsipas, who raced to a two-set lead in his first Grand Slam championship match. But the World No. 1 halted his momentum in a pivotal stretch early in the third set, and the comeback was on. Djokovic became just the sixth player in the Open Era to turn around a two-set deficit in a Grand Slam final, and the first to do it at Roland Garros since Gaston Gaudio’s 2004 turnaround against Guillermo Coria.
“[I left] the court, as it was the case against [Lorenzo] Musetti in the fourth round when I was two sets down, and came back as a different player," Djokovic said. "Just refreshed, [and I] managed to make a break, early break in the third. After that, I felt like I got into his head. I feel like I started swinging through the ball better. The momentum was on my side, it shifted. There was no looking back from that moment.”
Comebacks From 0-2 In Grand Slam Finals (Open Era)
|Novak Djokovic d. Stefanos Tsitsipas||2021 Roland Garros||6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4|
|Dominic Thiem d. Alexander Zverev||2020 US Open||2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6)|
|Gaston Gaudio d. Guillermo Coria||2004 Roland Garros||0-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 8-6|
|Andre Agassi d. Andrei Medvedev||1999 Roland Garros||1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4|
|Ivan Lendl d. John McEnroe||1984 Roland Garros||3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5|
|Bjorn Borg d. Manuel Orantes||1974 Roland Garros||2-6, 6-7(4), 6-0, 6-1, 6-1|
Tsitsipas, who fought past Alexander Zverev in five sets in the semi-finals, was quick off the mark against Djokovic on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The Greek player was bidding to become the first player from his country to win a Grand Slam title, and he made his case early on after firing three aces to save two break points in his first service game.
The Greek player withstood the heavy pressure of having Djokovic, one of the best returners in the game, standing across the net as he controlled the first two sets with his powerful serve. Tsitsipas narrowly kept his edge as Djokovic continued to press, regularly pulling Djokovic out wide in cross-court rallies before finding down-the-line winners with his forehand.
Djokovic outlasted Tsitsipas in a 26-shot rally to save set point at 5-4, and claimed the first break of the match to serve for the set at 6-5. But Tsitsipas struck back to send them into a tie-break, where he took a 4/0 lead and set up a second set point with a forehand that landed so perfectly in the corner that even Djokovic was forced to applaud. The Greek player reeled off the next two points to claim the first set.
Tsitsipas found an even higher level in the second set, matching the top seed shot for shot. The Greek player had the Chatrier crowd on their feet as he powered his way to a double-break, firing nine winners and just two unforced errors against Djokovic, who found only six winners and racked up 10 mishits.
But Djokovic turned the match on its head in the third set as he stepped inside the baseline and dialled up the aggression – and peppered in smart drop shots to keep his opponent guessing. Djokovic claimed a crucial service break after an 11-minute game, with Tsitsipas saving four break points but being unable to hold back the World No. 1 as Djokovic took a 3-1 lead.
That moment seemed to galvanise Djokovic, who found a second wind and raised his level in the final two sets. The Serbian dropped only three points on his own serve in a dominant fourth set, winning 86 per cent (12/14) of points behind his powerful first delivery. After taking a 4-0 lead with a double break, Djokovic levelled the scoreline by taking the fourth set in 39 minutes.
Djokovic, who never faced a break point after the second set, continued to dominate in the fifth set even as Tsitsipas continued to will himself back. Buoyed by the Chatrier crowd, Tsitsipas saved three break points across two of his service games, including two to hold for 4-3. But he could not find a way back after dropping serve at 2-1, and the World No. 1 sealed his 19th Grand Slam crown after four hours and 11 minutes.
Tsitsipas was bidding for his first Grand Slam title in his first appearance in a major final. The 22-year-old was also seeking to become the youngest men’s singles champion since Juan Martin del Potro won the title at the US Open in 2009, aged 20 years and 355 days.
"What I learned today is that no matter what, in order for the match to be finished, you have to win three sets and not two," Tsitsipas said afterward. "Two sets doesn't really mean anything. It's still one away of winning the entire match."