Numero Uno: On Djokovic win at French Open

Novak Djokovic has always maintained that ending his career with the most number of Grand Slam titles is one of his prime motivations to keep playing tennis. In the Roland-Garros final on Sunday, he took a giant stride in realising this dream with a sensational come-from-behind five-set victory over the fast-rising Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas for his 19th Major, pulling him within one title of his celebrated rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It was the Serb’s second French Open trophy, making him only the third man in history (after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver) and first in the Open Era (post 1967) to win all four Slams at least twice. The rhythmic allure of the record aside, the sense of completeness and the feeling of sporting immortality it brings, even to a career as storied as Djokovic’s, is unparalleled. So will the 34-year-old’s semifinal victory over 13-time champion Nadal, the greatest of all clay-courters. That Djokovic had the tennis to challenge the Spaniard was never in doubt. What was astonishing was the way he bounced back from the shell-shocking in last year’s final and outwitted an in-form Nadal. For Djokovic to not fall off the emotional cliff and defeat Tsitsipas — a player 12 years younger — brought to light one of his constant themes — poise and resilience under relentless pressure.

The triumph is yet another reminder that Djokovic is this era’s most complete player. Where Federer has tweaked his shot-making with a larger racquet-head and Nadal has displayed new levels of aggression, Djokovic has prioritised balance, footwork and timing. Currently, no one can perhaps hit as well as Djokovic, from both wings, with pace and spin, at varied angles, even when on defence. As Nadal and Tsitsipas found out over exactly four hours and 11 minutes each, a tennis court had never felt smaller. This has now kindled hopes of a ‘golden’ Grand Slam, a herculean feat of winning all four Majors and the Olympic gold in a single year. However, if there is one man who has dared to dream and succeeded, it is Djokovic. Unseeded Barbora Krejcikova perhaps took cue and became the Czech Republic’s first singles champion in Paris in 40 years, providing a storyline to latch on to after Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal because of mental health concerns and Serena Williams’ early exit. Nine months ago, Krejcikova was ranked outside the top-100 and had appeared in only three singles main draws at Slams. But with two doubles and three mixed doubles trophies, she was no stranger to success. Over the last fortnight, with her delightfully languid but polished game, she became the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to sweep both singles and doubles at Roland-Garros.


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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 3:24:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/numero-uno-on-djokovic-win-at-french-open/article34816434.ece

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