Djokovic seals historic Roland Garros victory; sets GOAT marker

Novak Djokovic French Open Trophy 2021

PARIS: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic lifted his second Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy Sunday after completing a mammoth turnaround in the Roland Garros final to take down Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, and becoming the first player in the Open Era to win every Grand Slam twice.

The victory also makes the Serbian legend 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.

Novak Djokovic French Open Trophy 2021 graphic
Novak Djokovic the history maker  

“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.

His latest and arguably greatest Grand Slam victory sets not only the GOAT (greatest of all time) title firmly within his sights, but also opens up the real possibility of Djokovic becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1968 to achieve the calendar Grand Slam. With the 2021 Australian and French Open titles already in hand, the Serb will go into Wimbledon in two weeks and the US Open on August 30th as the overwhelming favourite. 

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.”

No looking back has been what Djokovic has been doing with inexorable relentlessness in a stellar career whose final chapters are still a long way away from being completed.