Novak Djokovic has claimed his 19th Grand Slam title at the French Open after battling back from two sets down to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7(7), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, in what was a dramatic final.
The world No.1 looked at times to be far from his best as he remained emotionless throughout the majority of the final. Prompting a theory that he might have been still physically struggling following his clash with Rafael Nadal two days prior. Nevertheless, he weathered the storm with the help of 56 winners as he broke five times to claim only his second title at Roland Garros. Becoming the third oldest man in the Open Era to win the tournament.
“This is, once again, a dream come true,” Djokovic said moments after winning the match.
“I think to my team, my family, my physio, everyone. It’s difficult to win titles against great players. (The past) three days have been so difficult physically and mentally.”
Taking to the court for what was their eighth Tour meeting, the showdown started with a nail-biting 68-minute opening set which saw both players having opportunities. Tsitsipas withstood a seven-minute opening service game to settle his nerves against a fiery Djokovic who impressively dropped just two points during his first four service games. The Greek had his first set point chance to seal a 6-4 lead but failed to convert during an epic 24-shot rally. Two games later Djokovic had a chance of his own to clinch the opener after breaking for 6-5. However, the Serbian looked to be struggling with his eyes and ending up getting broken himself.
The roller-coaster continued into the tiebreak with Tsitsipas once again opening up a lead (4-0) before his rival fought back to draw level. Facing a set point for the first time at 5-6, he saved it with a deep forehand winner. Two points later he eventually prevailed with the help of a Djokovic unforced error.
Heading into the second frame, the world No.5 broke right away as his rival started to look increasingly flat and sluggish on the court. Even when he went down a double break the usual outburst of emotion was nowhere to be seen for Djokovic. Meanwhile, a confident Tsitsipas stuck to his game plan as he rallied to a 5-2 lead before sealing the second set with a 195 MP/H serve down the centre of the court.
With his back up against the wall and playing more freely, it wasn’t until the third set where Djokovic regained momentum. During a marathon Tsitsipas service game, he prevailed on his fifth break point opportunity to open up a 3-1 lead. Enough of a margin for him to seal the set and revive his hopes of a second French Open crown.
As the tides began to turn, Tsitsipas took a medical time out to have work conducted on his lower back as he started to show signs of fatigue. Reminiscent of Djokovic’s clash with Lorenzo Musetti earlier in the tournament where he also came back from two sets down before the Italian was forced to retire in the decider.
Upon resumption Djokovic continued to battle emphatically back as he took the final into a decider. Something which hadn’t happened in the men’s tournament since 2004. Three games into the fifth set he struck once again with the help of a deep shot which forced Tsitsipas to return the ball out. Giving him the vital break for 3-1. Edging closer towards the finish line he still had to contend with some audacious play coming from across the court. Djokovic earned his first championship point with the help of a 197 mph serve which was his quickest of the match. Only to be denied by a sublime Tsitsipas backhand winner. However, he prevailed on his second attempt with a forehand volley at the net.
“These are the kind of occasions you can learn from the most,” Djokovic said in tribute to Tsitsipas. “Knowing him and his team, he’s gonna come out much stronger from this match. I definitely believe he is going to win many Grand Slams in the future.”
After coming close to his first Grand Slam title, Tsitsipas can seek some comfort in the fact he will rise to a new ranking high of fourth on Monday.
“It was a good first time playing here in the final. I’ve had a good run and I’m happy with myself but let’s give it to Novak because he has shown us over the last couple of years what a great champion he is,” said the Greek.
“I’m actually inspired by the things I have achieved here (in Paris) and I hope one day I can maybe do half of what he (Djokovic) has done.”
The triumph has made Djokovic the first man in the Open Era to have won every Grand Slam title at least twice. He is just one major title away from drawing level with Nadal and Roger Federer for the most ever won by an ATP player. The 34-year-old is also the first player to have won seven Grand Slam titles after turning 30.
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Alcaraz Fell Victim To Unbeatable Medvedev
Carlos Alcaraz was no match for Daniil Medvedev in the US Open semi-finals.
A star had to fall. There was no other way.
This time, Carlos Alcaraz was the victim. Daniil Medvedev was unbeatable.
The 6-6 Russian was everywhere, playing almost perfect tennis in a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over Alcaraz.
So, one former champion went down while one advanced to Sunday’s final at the U.S. Open.
And then there was Novak Djokovic, another former champion headed for the title match.
U.S. OPEN WAS THE BIG WINNER FRIDAY
The U.S. Open couldn’t lose once Djokovic dominated young American Ben Shelton, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Djokovic appeared to be content with just winning while getting the preliminaries over with. He seemed to be a little miffed by Shelton’s cockiness. There were no hugs or embraces when the match ended. Just a handshake.
Shelton has huge potential, but it’s going to take some time before he’s ready to join the likes of Djokovic, Medvedev and Alcaraz. He’s a better athlete than he is tennis player.
Novak is ready to go for a record 24th Grand Slam title.
Believe it or not, Medvedev will be playing in his fifth Grand Slam final.
Sunday should be a great day in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with two former champs, Djokovic and Medvedev, going against each other.
CAN COCO HIT WITH SABALENKA
The women’s final will be interesting. Can Coco Gauff compete with Aryna Sabalenka?
Sabalenka looked helpless against Madison Keys’ big strokes and serves in the first set of their semifinal on Thursday.
Sabalenka couldn’t win even one game in that set. She looked helpless.
But she obviously felt all along that she could beat Keys anytime she wanted. Or why else would the powerful Sabalenka go for broke on almost every shot? And it almost cost her.
Amazingly, Sabalenka waited almost to the final moments to decide to play within her game and stop the wildness.
Once Sabalenka decided to settle down and play to win, Keys went just the opposite way, similarly to her one-sided loss to Sloane Stephens in the 2017 U.S. Open final.
Keys appeared ready to win this time as she held a 6-0, 5-4 advantage over new world’s No. 1 Sabalenka, who seemed to be stumbling all over the court as she repeatedly hit wild shots in every direction.
Just like that, everything changed. Sabalenka started hitting winners everywhere as Keys reversed roles with Sabalenka. Not only did Sabalenka win the second set while dropping just one point in a tiebreaker, she stormed through a decisive 10-point third-set tiebreaker to win the match.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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