While he lost a round earlier than he did last year, Novak Djokovic came far closer to defeating his only real obstacle in Paris. He looked much sharper to start the tournament than in 2012 and carried that form to the brink of stopping Rafael Nadal in five sets.
Djokovic, who desperately wants to complete his collection of major titles, had looked overcome by the pressure of the moment when he faced Nadal in last year's Roland Garros final.
This year, he rose to the occasion and responded to adversity with resilience. Djokovic trailed by a set and a break, trailed by two sets to one, and trailed by a break three times in the fourth set, but he swept aside all of those deficits to claim an early lead in the fifth set.
Two service holds from an implausible comeback, nerves undermined Djokovic again and helped a desperate Nadal stay alive. The break of serve that he donated to the end the match also bore the imprint of tension.
With the benefit of hindsight, Djokovic will recognize that he made progress toward his greatest goal.