Novak Djokovic He looked well on his way to another victory, another French Open final, and another match against the opponent Raphael Nadal. And then, all of a sudden, what was on the mare became a grind.
Just over two hours in the semi-finals against him Stefanos Tsetsipas Friday evening, Djokovic was sent for the match, one point away from finishing things in straight sets. Just. One. Point. But a backhand downturned slightly, Djokovic turned his eyes, and in the end, he was stuck in a dangerous position, somehow pushed into five sets.
As is usually the case, he was up to the task when it mattered most. Djokovic came back down the road to hold out against much younger Tsitsipas, not to mention scoring 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 to reach his fifth title at Roland Garros.
“I stayed cool on the roof, but deep down, it was completely different,” Djokovic said.
Standing on No. 1 ranked Djokovic, 33-year-old from Serbia, on Sunday at the Philippe Shatir Stadium – seeking a second trophy there and 18th place from all Grand Slam tournaments – will be, as much, No. 2 Nadal, 34 From Spain.
Their meeting will be 56, the largest meeting between two men in the professional era (Djokovic leads 29-26), 16th in a major tournament (Nadal leads 9-6) and eighth in the French Open (Nadal leads 6-1).
“It’s his home,” Djokovic said.
In addition to closing the unimaginable 13th French Open with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (0) victory over the 12th seed. Diego SchwartzmanNadal now gets a chance to draw Roger Federer The men’s record has 20 slam titles.
Nadal said it is fine for others to discuss matters like this, but his focus remains squarely on the task at hand.
He insisted, “I play the most important tournament of the year – that’s what motivates me.”
While Nadal dealt with the slightest tension late in his third group on Friday, everything became more exciting at that point for Djokovic against Tsitsipas, the 22-year-old from Greece, in his main semi-final.
Djokovic served to win 5-4, maintaining the match point at 40-30. It would take another hour and 45 minutes to complete the task.
That slip left the door a little ajar, and pushed through Tsitsipas. He got his first break in every match when he sent Djokovic a long forehand, which made him a 5-all. Tsitsipas broke again to steal that set when Djokovic scored a forehand, then put things up in fifth.
What has changed? Tsitsipas started to go further, taking the action to Djokovic, whose errors began to increase with less time to properly calibrate.
Also worth noting: the massive swing in success is the breakout points.
Djokovic started off by turning four out of five, then went through a spell where he was one to 13.
In contrast, Tsitsipas started with zero to 10, then went to four to five.
After the fourth set, Djokovic changed socks and shoes, and Tsitsipas got a visit to check on his left leg.
“I think my body wasn’t ready,” Tsitsipas later admitted. “Physically, I wasn’t really there.”
Djokovic is now 32-10 in five crunches and 216-1 when he advanced in two sets in the Grand Slam matches. (The only loss came in the 2010 French Open against Juergen Melzer.)
Tsitsipas? Only 2-4 in five is stable.
It might have made sense, then, that Djokovic, who relied on dropouts in all matches and all tournaments, used a perfect way to break a 2-1 lead in fifth place. That became 4-1 when Tsitsipas made a double foul.
“I feel, I can say, I’m happy – and at the same time sad,” Tsitsipas said.
Djokovic is now 37-1 in 2020, the only setback that comes by being disqualified at the US Open last month.
Tsitsipas said, “Sure, he’s almost perfect, Novak, in his style of play, the way he’s playing, which is just unbelievable to see honestly.”
Nadal improved to 99-2 at the French Open – go ahead, read that again – including a combined 25-0 in the semifinals and finals as he seeks a fourth successive title in Paris.
He has won all 15 sets he has played in the past two weeks, making the assumed explanations for this year, very different for many reasons, different for Nadal in the City of Lights.
The shift in dates from May to June to September to October due to the COVID-19 pandemic is making the weather even colder. New tennis balls are a little heavier. Nadal’s decision to skip the US Open, leaving him with only three games since tennis resumed in August.
Then there was this: Schwartzman beat Nadal in straight sets on the clay at the Italian Open last month.
The midday sun at Philippe Chatrier created an embarrassing shade over much of the stadium and dazzling brightness at one end, causing Schwartzman to wrap around a back baseball cap so the brim could protect his eyes.
Only 1,000 spectators are allowed in the stadiums per day, given the soaring cases of COVID-19 in France, and the crowd at hand was cheering for Schwartzman late in Season Three, when he kept this close.
In the end, fans were chanting, “Rafa! Ra Fa!” As it has happened many times in the past.
“You can’t pretend you’re in the Roland Garros final without suffering.” Nadal said of the tight third set. “But I found a way, right?”
So did Djokovic.