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2021 French Open: The final word

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Roar Guru
14th June, 2021
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The curtain has drawn on another French Open tournament and while Rafael Nadal fell short in his bid to achieve tennis immortality, someone else did just that, with Novak Djokovic becoming the first man in the Open Era to achieve a double career Grand Slam.

In doing so he also did what Nadal and Roger Federer couldn’t, and that was to come from two sets to love down in a Major final by triumphing over Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in what could only be described as an epic championship showdown.

Going into the final, all the talk surrounded whether Djokovic could back up his momentous semi-final win over Nadal and become the third man overall (after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver) to win each of the four Majors at least once.

On the flipside, Tsitsipas had become the first player from his country to reach a Major final and another question that was asked was whether he could do what others couldn’t and mount a serious challenge to the Big Three (Djokovic, Nadal and Federer) when it matters most.

The 22-year-old drew first blood, taking the first set in a tiebreak after an hour and twelve minutes, and then took a shock two-sets-to-love lead when he took the second set 6-2.

At this stage, the finish line was within sight, however Djokovic would begin mounting his comeback, claiming the third set 6-3, after which Tsitsipas took a medical time-out to treat a back injury.

Questions started to be raised as to whether the Greek star could see out the match, and after the Djoker broke twice in the fourth to take it by 6-2, it was game on once again, and for the first time since 2004 the men’s championship match would be decided by a one-set shootout.

The Serb would not face a break point in the final set; despite a spirited challenge by Tsitsipas, the Serb would break early in the deciding set to claim it by 6-4 and reinforce his status as one of the greatest players of the modern tennis era.

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece

Stefanos Tsitsipas. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

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In winning, Djokovic not only became the first man in the Open Era to win each of the four Majors at least twice, he also became just the third man since the turn of the century to salute at Roland Garros more than once (after Rafael Nadal and Gustavo Kuerten).

His 19th major title will also create a major subplot to the upcoming Wimbledon Championships, where he will be vying for a record-equaling 20th Major title – held jointly by his two main career rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Of course, the incentive is also there for either Federer or Nadal to win, as for the two of them, a record-breaking 21st Major men’s singles title is at stake.

The last time a French Open men’s final went the distance, Gaston Gaudio, then ranked 44th in the world, also came from two sets to love down – and saved a championship point – to defeat compatriot Guillermo Coria for his only Major title.

It was also just the second time since then that a man successfully overhauled a two-set deficit to win a Major final, after Dominic Thiem did so to defeat Alexander Zverev in last year’s US Open final.

Thiem is so far the only man of the so-called “Next Gen” to break through for a Major title, though you get the feeling that the likes of Tsitsipas, Zverev and Daniil Medvedev are not far from getting their time under the sun.

For Tsitsipas, defeat was a bitter pill to swallow, even made more heartbreaking when it was revealed that his grandmother had passed away five minutes before the match commenced.

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The Athens native should still be proud of his achievements and efforts at Roland Garros, and will leave here knowing he gave his everything by winning two sets against Novak Djokovic in a Major championship match.

But as we all know too well, it was the Djoker’s experience that proved to be the difference as he further expanded the gulf between himself, Federer and Nadal and the rest of the pack.

So for now, the Big Three’s dominance at the Majors continues unabated, and with the lure of joining his contemporaries on 20 Major titles Djokovic will be fired up more than anyone to defend his Wimbledon title from 2019 in a few weeks.

Men’s championship result
[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated [5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 6-7 (6-8), 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

On the women’s side of things we saw a sixth consecutive first-time Major champion crowned at Roland Garros, with Barbora Krejcikova emerging from an upset-ravaged draw to defeat experienced Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets in the championship match.

Unlike the men’s tournaments, which has become all too predictable over the past decade or so, the women’s tournaments at recent Majors have produced some unexpected champions, and this year’s French Open proved no different.

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Reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka withdrew before her second round match, citing mental health concerns, this ensuring she remained undefeated at the Majors since last year’s Australian Open (where she lost to Coco Gauff in the third round).

Top seed Ashleigh Barty’s tournament was derailed by injury, being forced to abort her bid for a second French Open title in the second round, while two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova also withdrew due to an injury she suffered off the court.

As if that wasn’t enough, the likes of Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka were again found wanting at the Majors, while Serena Williams’ bid for a record-equaling 24th Major title was again brought to an end earlier than expected.

Iga Swiatek put up a good fight in her title defence, but was ultimately brought undone by Maria Sakkari in the quarter-finals; the Greek 17th seed then failed to convert a match point in her heartbreaking semi-final loss to the eventual champion, Barbora Krejcikova.

Krejcikova, who was contesting only her fifth Major, was broken in the first game of the championship decider but then quickly gained her rhythm, winning six straight games to take the opening set 6-1.

Pavlyuchenkova, for so long had been behind the likes of Maria Sharapova (since retired) and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Russian pecking order, hit back to take the second 6-2 before the Czech player claimed the final set 6-4.

In winning, Krejcikova, the younger of the two finalists by four years, became the first player since Justine Henin in 2005 to win the French Open after saving a match point earlier in the tournament.

She also became the second player this year to do so this year, after Naomi Osaka fought off two match points against Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round of the Australian Open in February.

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The 25-year-old also became just the second player from the Czech Republic to salute at Roland Garros, while she also became the first woman from the country to win a Major since Kvitova won the second of her two Wimbledon titles in 2014.

It was also the first Czech Republic vs Russia Major final since Kvitova defeated Sharapova to win her first title at the All England Club in 2011, which the now-31-year-old will commemorate the tenth anniversary of at this year’s championships which kick off later this month.

Barbora Krejcikova holds the Suzanne-Lenglen Cup aloft.

Barbora Krejcikova holds the Suzanne-Lenglen Cup aloft. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

The challenge for Krejcikova is to prove that she is no one-Slam wonder, as the likes of current players such as Bianca Andreescu, Jelena Ostapenko, Sloane Stephens, Ashleigh Barty and Iga Swiatek can attest.

Given the unpredictable nature of women’s tennis, it would also not be surprising if we saw someone win her first Major title at SW19 – which has not happened since Marion Bartoli saluted there in 2013 before suddenly announcing her retirement 40 days later.

That, and plenty more, will make for an interesting Wimbledon Championships as tennis returns to the All England Club after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s tournament.

Women’s championship result
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated [31] Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

Back on topic to finish off, and congratulations to Novak Djokovic and Barbora Krejcikova, who both leave Paris with some precious silverware, and you can bet both will be back to defend their titles in twelve months’ time.

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