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Novak Djokovic Defeats Stefanos Tsitsipas to Win 2021 French Open Men's Final

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJune 13, 2021

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic earned the 19th Grand Slam title of his career with a thrilling five-set victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open final.

The No. 1 player in the world overcame a slow start to earn a 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over the fifth-seeded Tsitsipas on Sunday at Roland Garros. He won 78 percent of his first-serve points and was broken just three times on the way to the hard-fought win after four hours and 11 minutes of action.

A break in the third game of the fifth set played a key role in securing the victory, thanks in part to one of the best shots of the tournament.

ATP Tour @atptour

HOW?! ๐Ÿคฏ<br><br>๐ŸŽฅ: @rolandgarros | @DjokerNole pic.twitter.com/7kwmpLY9FG

Djokovic held his serve for the rest of the set to close out the win.

After also handing Rafael Nadal just his third career French Open loss in the semifinal, Djokovic is now the first person in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam at least twice. The 34-year-old sits one shy of Nadal and Roger Federer for the most major titles in men's history (20).

Tsitsipas was already the first Greek male to reach a Grand Slam final, but the 22-year-old fell short of his first title.

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Djokovic entered as a heavy favorite, but the two looked evenly matched during an entertaining first set.

Tsitsipas made a number of excellent shots to keep pace in the early going.

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

Brought their best for the big stage ๐Ÿ’ช#RolandGarros | @steftsitsipas pic.twitter.com/D0EoQDYaXB

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

Tsitsi-FAST ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ#RolandGarros | @steftsitsipas pic.twitter.com/DVWAvWUJ0X

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

SHOT ๐Ÿ˜ฑ#RolandGarros | @steftsitsipas pic.twitter.com/Kstm8NaZIV

Both players had a chance to win the set before it went to a tiebreak, which saw even more drama. A 4-0 Tsitsipas lead turned into a 6-5 Djokovic advantage, but three straight points from the underdog led to an opening-set victory.

Christopher Clarey @christophclarey

Tremendous set, full of all sorts of great shots under duress. Both men saved a set point but Djokovic could not save a second<br><br>First set of this French Open final to the newcomer: 7-6 (8-6)#Getty pic.twitter.com/GhUQx8QB4O

Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg

stefanos tSETsipas<br><br>Tsitsipas settled in very well, and battled in the tiebreak to take the first 7-6(6) over #1 Djokovic.<br><br>This is already the best men's Slam final we've had since the pandemic began.

The momentum continued into the second set as Tsitsipas earned a break in the first game on the way to a 6-2 victory.

Djokovic had 10 unforced errors in the set and never even got a break opportunity, while Tsitsipas continued to showcase his skill set.

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

Feeling it ๐Ÿ™Œ#RolandGarros | @steftsitsipas pic.twitter.com/nXP5HYETp9

James Gray @jamesgraysport

If you didn't know what was going on at Roland Garros, you would think Djokovic is playing his first grand slam final and Tsitsipas is the 18-time champion.<br><br>Novak says he likes being 2-0 down to the younger players - about to find out how true that is.#RolandGarros

Djokovic finally looked like his old self in the third, winning 71 percent of service points on the way to a 6-3 win.

NBC Sports @NBCSports

Not going down without a FIGHT!! ๐Ÿ‘Š@DjokerNole | #RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/yfHaChHZwo

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ Idemo ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ธ<br><br>Djokovic keeps his title hopes alive, rebounding to close out the third set 6-3.#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/7tg0gV1yGw

There were still plenty of tough points, but the Serbian found ways to finish.

Tsitsipas, meanwhile, dealt with back pain before the fourth set and required treatment with his trainer before coming back out. Djokovic took advantage, taking the next four games on the way to a 6-2 win. 

Sumanth Raman @sumanthraman

Never seen so many brilliant drop shots from @DjokerNole in a single match as I have seen today. Such deceptive racquet speed. Genius. #DjokovicTsitsipas

Tennis Channel @TennisChannel

Heโ€™s on a mission to overtake @rogerfederer's mark of 20 major titles. ๐Ÿ<br><br>The world No. 1 @DjokerNole stops 22-year-old Tsitsipas in the fourth set, 6-2.#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/clSmXl92ri

The fifth set featured some more long rallies, with both players showing incredible endurance to keep the ball in play.

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

Take a bow, gentlemen ๐Ÿ‘#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/PaN95arOMv

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

It's not over until it's over ๐Ÿ˜ณ#RolandGarros | @DjokerNole pic.twitter.com/PkvtRZkYUE

Tsitsipas might have surrendered his early lead, but there was no question about his effort throughout the five sets. He saved 11 of 16 break points and fought off one championship point while keeping his chance at the upset alive.

It just wasn't enough to take down one of the best ever.

Djokovic was on the brink of a disappointing loss in the final but dug deep for the come-from-behind victory. It was the first time he overcame a 2-0 set deficit in a Grand Slam final, per ESPN Stats & Info.

He also overcame a 2-0 deficit in his fourth-round win over Lorenzo Musetti in this tournament, another pivotal moment in one of the most impressive title runs of his career.

Though Tsitsipas likely has a long career ahead of him, Djokovic refuses to step aside for the younger generation.

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