The men’s singles French Open final on Sunday will be historic for men’s tennis, one way or the other.
Novak Djokovic can become the first man in 52 years to win all four Grand Slam titles twice – a definitive landmark of greatness in this era of men’s tennis.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, playing his first Grand Slam final, can become just the second man born in 1990s to win a Grand Slam title – an almost unbroachable barrier in this era of men’s tennis.
Victory for the Serb will take him alongside Roy Emerson and Rod Laver as the only men to capture the four majors more than once. It’s an achievement that has proved even beyond the capabilities of Nadal and Roger Federer. It is so rare an accomplishment that it hasn’t happened since 1969 when Laver completed his second calendar Grand Slam.
Djokovic can also pocket a 19th Slam with victory and move just one behind the record of 20 jointly held by Nadal and Federer.
The world No 1 reaches the final in Paris for a sixth time after an epic semi-final that handed the 13-time champion Nadal just his third French Open loss in 16 years.
Tsitsipas, 22, and 12 years younger than the Serb, is in his first Slam final having ended a run of three semi-final losses by defeating Alexander Zverev over five sets on Friday.
Victory on Sunday would allow him to become the first Greek player to win a Slam title. He would also become the youngest champion in Paris since Nadal in 2008 and overall at the Slams since Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open.
Djokovic holds a 5-2 record over Tsitsipas, a run which includes all three meetings on clay. The 22-year-old has won just twice overall in seven meetings with Djokovic with the Serb winning the last two crucal clay-court matches they played – in a five-setter at the French Open semi-finals in 2020 and then in Rome on the eve of Roland Garros this year.
Head-to-head: Djokovic leads 5-2
|2021||ATP Masters 1000 Rome||Outdoor Clay||QF||Novak Djokovic||4-6 7-5 7-5|
|2020||Roland Garros||Outdoor Clay||SF||Novak Djokovic||6-3 6-2 5-7 4-6 6-1|
|2020||Dubai||Outdoor Hard||F||Novak Djokovic||6-3 6-4|
|2019||ATP Masters 1000 Paris||Indoor Hard||QF||Novak Djokovic||6-1 6-2|
|2019||ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai||Outdoor Hard||QF||Stefanos Tsitsipas||3-6 7-5 6-3|
|2019||ATP Masters 1000 Madrid||Outdoor Clay||F||Novak Djokovic||6-3 6-4|
|2018||ATP Masters 1000 Canada||Outdoor Hard||R16||Stefanos Tsitsipas||6-3 6-7(5) 6-3|
|Novak Djokovic||Stefanos Tsitsipas|
|Age||34 (1987.05.22)||22 (1998.08.12)|
|Residence||Monte Carlo, Monaco||Monte Carlo, Monaco|
|Height||6'2" (188 cm)||6'4" (193 cm)|
|Weight||170 lbs (77 kg)||196 lbs (89 kg)|
|Career Prize Money||$148,092,073||$14,136,302|
Tsitsipas is the hottest player on tour in 2021 with a season-leading 39 wins and has matured into one of the first clay-court players this year.
Twenty-two of those have come on clay and have reaped his first-ever Masters title in Monte Carlo as well as Lyon. He also had a match point in the Barcelona final against eventual champion Nadal.
Standing 6ft 4ins (1.93m) tall, Tsitsipas is the sport’s picture-perfect public face and widely expected to be the natural heir to the likes of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
He is already the youngest player to have defeated all three, completing the admirable task before he was 21.
He is the first Greek man or woman to make a Slam final and already has seven career titles to his name including the prestigious ATP Finals in 2019. However, there is still much to prove.
As good as he has been on clay, he has never been at this stage before. He defeated fellow young guns Daniil Medvedev and Zverev in two very good matches, but it will be a whole different ball game against the world No 1.
Djokovic is his 29th Slam final on Sunday to the fifth seed’s first and the experience factor cannot be overstated. The Greek had a Grand Slam breakthrough when he beat Federer at the Australian Open in 2019, followed it up with another semi-final run this year when he beat Nadal after coming from two sets down.
Tsitsipas almost did that against Djokovic last year at Roland Garros, but went down in the fifth set. He now gets another shot at it, this time with a lot more on line but also armed with experience.
Road to the final
1st rd: bt Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-2, 6-4, 6-2
2nd rd: bt Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
3rd rd: bt Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-1, 6-4, 6-1
4th rd: bt Lorenzo Musetti (ITA) 6-7 (7/9), 6-7 (2/7), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0 - retired
QF: bt Matteo Berrettini (ITA x9) 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5
SF: bt Rafael Nadal (ESP x3) 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2
1st rd: bt Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 6-1
2nd rd: bt Pedro Martinez (ESP) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3
3rd rd: bt John Isner (USA x31) 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 6-1
4th rd: bt Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP x12) 6-3, 6-2, 7-5
QF: bt Daniil Medvedev (RUS x2) 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5
SF: bt Alexander Zverev (GER x6) 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3
Djokovic insists there will be no letdown physically or emotionally after reaching the final in Paris for a sixth time with an epic triumph over 13-time champion Nadal.
“It’s not the first time that I play an epic semi-final in a Grand Slam and then I have to come back in less than 48 hours and play finals,” said the 34-year-old.
“My recovery abilities have been pretty good throughout my career.”
About his next opponent he said, “We played an epic five-setter last year in the semis here. I know it’s going to be another tough one. I’m hoping I can recharge my batteries as much as I can because I’m going to need some power and energy for that one.”
Tsitsipas was once described by Djokovic as having “the traits of a champion” and on Sunday he will hope to prove the Serb’s glowing reference was not a misjudgement.
The charismatic 22-year-old, one of the widely-touted ‘NextGen’ of the sport looks to land the first significant bodyblow on the old guard when he tackles the world number one for the French Open title.
“He is a hard worker, dedicated, nice guy. He’s very smart and wise. I love the fact that he is more than just a tennis player and he’s always looking to learn from experience and to understand something new about himself.
“That’s the trait of a champion, of someone who has great potential to be number one in the world and win Slams and be a great ambassador for the sport,” the Serb said.
With tennis history on the line, who will be the champion at the end of a shock-filled French Open?
With AFP Inputs
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