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Novak Djokovic wins French Open; Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal Slams record in sight

Novak Djokovic overcame a two-set deficit to win his 19th Grand Slam title, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2021 French Open.

Novak Djokovic climbed Everest and won the French Open, beginning what could be a (late spring and) summer where he cements his place as the greatest male tennis player in history.

Djokovic rallied past Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 on Sunday in the first five-set French Open final since the pre-Rafael Nadal era in 2004. That marathon effort came two days after Djokovic conquered 13-time Roland Garros champion Nadal in the semifinals.

Both matches were 4 hours, 11 minutes.

“Probably the best 40 hours I’ve ever had,” Djokovic said on Peacock.

Djokovic, 34, earned his 19th Grand Slam singles title, moving one shy of the male record shared by Roger Federer and Nadal. He became the first man in the Open Era (since 1968) to win all four majors twice.

Djokovic’s victory also marked the sixth comeback by anyone from two sets down in an Open Era Grand Slam final, five of them coming in Paris. He denied Tsitsipas, a 22-year-old bidding to become the first man of the ATP-branded “Next Gen” era to win a Slam.

“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. “Two sets doesn’t really mean anything. It’s still one away of winning the entire match.”

Djokovic also survived being two sets down in the fourth round against 19-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti.

“I like to play young guys in best-of-five, because I feel even if they are leading a set or two sets to love as it was the case today, I still like my chances,” Djokovic said after Musetti retired down 4-0 in the fifth. “I’m physically fit, and I know how to wear my opponent down. ... I’ve won most of the five-setters I have played in this tournament and in my career, so I think that experience helps.”

Now Djokovic heads to Wimbledon in two weeks with a chance to tie Federer and Nadal. After that, he can complete the career Golden Slam at the Tokyo Olympics. Then in September, he could break the men’s Slams record and become the first man to win a calendar Golden Slam.

Djokovic said he is “in a good position to go for the Golden Slam,” but reminded that he won the first two Slams of the last Olympic year in 2016, then lost in the third round of Wimbledon. He didn’t win the Rio Olympics or the U.S. Open, either.

“Obviously his goal and our goal is to win the Olympics and then win the Grand Slam,” said Marian Vajda, Djokovic’s coach. “That would be the absolutely top of this year. But it’s still far away from us.”

Maybe that’s looking too far ahead, but he passed the toughest test of them all in Paris. Djokovic became the first man to beat Nadal at the French Open and win the tournament.

“Rafa, he has a special game for the clay. He doesn’t need to work that hard for the clay because he has everything, the shots, the selection of shots, technically he’s just perfect to stay on the clay for longer,” Vajda said. But Novak have to find his game throughout the clay court season

Djokovic ranked this feat in the top four of his career -- also his first Wimbledon title in 2011 (that included becoming world No. 1), his 2012 Australian Open final epic with Nadal (5 hours, 53 minutes) and his 2019 Wimbledon final epic with Federer (saved two championship points).

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