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French Open: Djokovic sympathises after inflicting brutal blow on Tsitsipas

By John Skilbeck
French Open champion Novak Djokovic

Paris, June 14: Novak Djokovic backed Stefanos Tsitsipas to bounce back from the French Open final defeat that left the Greek star shell-shocked.

As Djokovic inked more achievements into the tennis record books, he did so at the expense of a player who surely thought his grand slam moment had come when he led the world number one by two sets.

Just as the crowd inside Court Philippe Chatrier prepared for a new champion to be crowned, Djokovic dug in, scrambling, scurrying and showing incredible levels of energy to snatch a 6-7 (6-8) 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory from what was almost a lost cause.

Having come through an exhausting four-hour battle with Rafael Nadal, the greatest of all Roland Garros champions, on Friday, it was mesmerising to watch Djokovic pick apart another world-class opponent in a marathon contest.

This was a match featuring the third largest age gap between French Open men's singles finalists in the Open Era, with Djokovic, at 34, showing a freshness that 22-year-old Tsitsipas could only admire in the closing stages. It marked the first time in Djokovic's great career that he has won a slam final from a two-set deficit.

Tsitsipas will not forget his first slam final in a hurry, but he would surely want to.

"I would like to say a few words to Stefanos," Djokovic said in an on-court interview. "I can relate to what he's going through. I understand how difficult that is, losing in the final of a grand slam.

"These are the kind of matches, the kind of occasions, you learn from the most, I think.

"Knowing him and his team, he's going to come out much stronger from this match and I definitely believe he's going to win many grand slams in the future. So respect to you and your team."

Djokovic became the first man in the Open Era to rack up two or more titles at each of the four grand slams, and he has 19 such victories altogether now, just one behind the all-time record that is shared by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

"It's truly a dream to be here and play a great match for one of the great trophies in our sport," Djokovic said.

"This is a tournament that gives me a lot of inspiration. I've needed the inspiration. I'm not as young as Stefanos. I have to search every day for new inspiration.

"It's sure that my great motivations are my children and my wife and all my team, who give me so much support and love. Without them it wouldn't be possible for me to be here. I'm proud and happy."

The body language of Tsitsipas showed he was obviously crestfallen and suffering, a post-match speech just a reminder of the pain he had been subjected to at the hands of the world number one.

"It was a big fight out there. I tried my best, I tried as much as I could but Novak played better," Tsitsipas said.

"It was my first time being here in the finals. I had a good run and I'm happy with myself, but let's give it to Novak. He's showed us in the last couple of years what a great champion he is, how consistent he has been.

"I would say I'm inspired by the things he has achieved so far and I hope one day I can maybe do half of what he has done so well."

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Story first published: Monday, June 14, 2021, 0:40 [IST]
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