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Djokovic completes grand slam set, Olympic gold the next target

Novak Djokovic is likely to be one of the main challengers to Rafael Nadal. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Roar Guru
6th June, 2016
1

After several years of trying, world number one Novak Djokovic has finally completed the career grand slam, defeating Andy Murray in four sets to win his first French Open title and bury the demons of three previous failures.

Djokovic entered the tournament as the red hot favourite to finally win the title that had eluded him in the previous four years, losing three times to Rafael Nadal in the 2012 and 2014 finals on either side of a semi-final heartbreaker in 2013, and then in last year’s final to an inspired Stan Wawrinka.

But the Djoker was not going to let this chance pass by, even with nine-times champion Nadal looming in his half when the draw was released two days prior to the tournament’s start.

When the Spaniard withdrew mid-tournament due to a persistent wrist injury, the title became Djokovic’s to lose. The top seed pounced on a wide-open top half of the draw and only had to defeat one top ten player (Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych) to reach a fourth final at Roland Garros.

He was able to do just that, despite flirting with disqualification in his quarter-final match against Berdych after he threw a racquet in frustration early in the third set of that match, narrowly missing a line judge in the process.

Then there was the straight-sets domination of Dominic Thiem, the man who benefited most from Nadal’s withdrawal, in the semi-final, which had him primed to finally break his French Open hoodoo.

In the final he came up against Andy Murray, who himself flirted with disaster in the opening two rounds when he was taken to five sets by Radek Stepanek and Mathias Bourgue before cruising through his part of the draw.

The Scot then took care of Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals before playing the clay court match of his life to end the title defence of Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals, winning in four sets.

Entering the final, it was hard to predict a winner with any real confidence. While Djokovic was determined as ever to finally win his first French Open title, Murray was in equally impressive form and over the last two years had improved on a surface which proved to be historically his worst throughout his career.

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Murray won the coin toss and elected to serve first, but he would be broken to love immediately, and Djokovic was off to the perfect start. Or so it seemed.

The Scot would break back right away and suddenly it was back on serve. From there, Murray would hold onto his lead and successfully served out the opening set, taking it 6-3.

From there, history would seem to favour Murray, who was undefeated after winning the opening set at Roland Garros. In addition he had won his last 49 Grand Slam matches after winning the opening set, dating back to Wimbedon in 2013.

But the Djoker would hit back hard in the next two sets, securing a double-break in each to take a two-sets-to-one lead. From there, he could smell the French Open title for the first time, and the history that was to come with it.

The top seed would break early in the fourth set, and then again later on to go up 5-2. This put him into the position to serve for the title, but a double-fault on break point down would make us wait a little bit longer.

Murray eventually held his serve in the ninth game and then the Djoker would have his second chance to serve it out again.

He would then earn two championship points at 40-15 in the tenth game but Murray would save both, forcing deuce. Djokovic would then earn a third championship point, and converted when Murray netted a forehand.

And thus, the monkey that had been on Djokovic’s back since the 2011 US Open, which was his fourth Grand Slam title (he had previously won the Australian Open twice, in 2008 and 2011, and Wimbledon in the latter year), was finally off.

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In addition to completing the career Grand Slam, he also becomes just the third man in history, after Don Budge and Rod Laver, to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously, and the first man since Laver in 1969 to do it.

In doing so he also achieved a feat that even eluded modern-day greats like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who at the peak of their powers found the pressure of holding all four titles at the same time too much.

Twice Federer had the chance to do it at Roland Garros in 2006 and 2007, twice he was denied by Nadal, while the Spaniard’s best chance was scuppered at the 2011 Australian Open when he lost to compatriot David Ferrer in the quarter-finals.

In addition Nadal was also denied a double career grand slam at the 2014 Australian Open when he was defeated in four sets by Stan Wawrinka, who prior to the final had never won a set against Nadal in thirteen previous meetings.

With the career Grand Slam now achieved, Djokovic can now turn his attention to Wimbledon, where he will attempt to become the first man since Federer in 2003-07 to win three consecutive titles, later this month, and then the Rio Olympics, where Andy Murray is the defending gold medallist in August.

This year’s Olympic tennis tournament will be played on DecoTurf, the same surface employed by the US Open, so as to ensure that the players enjoy a smooth lead-up to Flushing Meadows without having to switch surfaces.

This will give Djokovic the massive advantage given his recent dominance on hard courts, but it must be documented that Rafael Nadal did win the gold medal in Beijing en route to becoming world number one for the first time.

The Spaniard was also the favourite to win the gold medal in London in 2012, despite losing early at Wimbledon, where the tournament was held, to Lukas Rosol that year, but he withdrew due to his well-documented knee injuries.

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That paved the way for Murray to become the first British male gold medallist in tennis in over a century, when he defeated Roger Federer, who was going for the career Golden Slam, in straight sets in the final.

If Djokovic and Murray remain one and two respectively by the time the Olympics come around, then a gold medal match between the two same-age rivals could be a possibility.

And if the Serb can claim Gold, and assuming he wins Wimbledon later this month, then he can shoot for the Golden Calendar Slam with victory at the US Open in September. That would see him further etch his name into tennis immortality.

But for now, congratulations to the Djoker for winning his first French Open title, completing the career Grand Slam and the non-calendar Grand Slam in the process.

And most importantly, commiserations to Andy Murray, who joins Roger Federer in finishing as runner-up at all four Grand Slam tournaments.