The 22-year-old Greek star, appearing only in his first Grand Slam final, has shown experience and poise beyond his years to climb to the top of two sets, but courage and Djokovic’s determination proved too important, with the world No.1 ultimately prevailing 6-7 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 in a match that lasted over four hours.
The victory carries Djokovic to 19 Grand Slam titles, just one short of the all-time record jointly held by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
“It was an electric atmosphere,” Djokovic said after the game. “I would like to thank my trainer, my physiotherapist and all those who accompanied me on this trip.
“I played almost nine hours in the last 48 hours against two great champions. It was really tough physically the past three days, but I was confident in my abilities and knew I could do it. “
Djokovic down early
The game got off to a grueling start for Tsitsipas, who was forced to serve for seven minutes in his first service game, but the Greek star eventually held on with a flurry of three consecutive aces.
Tsitsipas’ celebration might have seemed overkill considering it was only the opening game, but you got a feeling he knew how important this takeover was in setting the tone for the match.
Djokovic, conversely, held his serve without breaking a sweat and that would be a trend that continued for much of the first set.
The Serbian’s all-down backhand looked particularly powerful in the opening rally and his touch for a number of early drop shot attempts was as light as a feather.
With the set equal to 3-3, a brilliant and skillful rally ended with Djokovic stretching for a shot and taking his shoe into the clay, which resulted in him having a frightening fall towards the post of the net. He managed to avoid a collision, but winced and carefully rose from the ground.
Luckily, there didn’t seem to be any lingering effect from Djokovic’s fall and both players upped their game to trade in a few high-quality games.
Serving at 4-5 and facing a set point, Djokovic set up a precise tennis clinic under pressure to maintain his serve and extend the first set.
Tsitsipas deserved huge praise at this point for not looking intimidated in his first Grand Slam final against one of the greatest players of all time on the other end of the pitch.
However, Djokovic’s pressure and experience eventually became too much, as Tsitsipas’s serve was eventually broken and his opponent would now have the chance to serve for a crucial first set.
But Tsitsipas, once again, showed his determination and experience beyond his years to beat Djokovic directly and take the first set to a tie-break.
The 22-year-old took a 4-0 lead in the tie-break, but Djokovic came back to 5-5 – with a little help from an extremely fortuitous net rebound – and, with the momentum now in. his favor, seemed to be about to close the first set.
However, two masterful forehands from Tsitsipas, who belied his tender years on such an occasion, set another set point and this time he didn’t pass up, forcing Djokovic to strike his backhand wide.
Although not a knockout, Djokovic looked dizzy and immediately lost his serve at the start of the second set.
At this point, you feel like Djokovic is hanging on and waiting for Tsitsipas’ absurdly high level to drop, but that never seemed to happen; indeed, the debutant in the Grand Slam final once again beat his opponent and closed the set to take a 2-0 lead.
There had been only one five-set final at Roland Garros since the turn of the century, so Djokovic would have to fit a piece of history to have any chance of winning the number 19 Grand Slam title.
It is a testament to Rafael Nadal’s dominance on clay that Soderling and Djokovic, the only players to ever beat Nadal at Roland Garros, did not both win the title when they reached the final after winning in the tournament. ‘a previous round against the Spaniard.
The mental and physical toll necessary to dethrone the “King of clay” is clearly still felt in the following rounds. That certainly seemed to be the case again in Sunday’s final, as Djokovic struggled to gain a foothold against an opponent who had been in the zone for more than two hours.
However, at the start of the second set, for the first time in the entire game, it looked like Djokovic had the opportunity to turn the tide of this final.
Serving at 1-2, Tsitsipas faced five break points and a barrage of some of Djokovic’s best shots in a brutal serve play that lasted over 11 minutes.
The pressure eventually kicked in and Djokovic only broke his opponent for the second time – now Tsitsipas’ mental resolve would be really put to the test.
Djokovic had never come back from two sets in a grand slam final before, but he was one set closer to breaking that duck after closing the third 6-3.
There were worrying signs for Tsitsipas, who was forced to call the coach for treatment at the end of the third set. Whatever the problem, it seemed to bother him as Djokovic broke his opponent’s serve in the opener of the fourth set.
Although still led by two sets to one, it felt like Djokovic was now the favorite as he broke Tsitsipas again to open a 3-0 lead.
All of a sudden Tsitsipas looked tired and his groundstrokes lacked the punch that had caused Djokovic so much trouble up to this point.
Soon after, Djokovic equalized the game, heading for a decisive fifth set.
Tsitsipas managed to keep his first service game under heavy pressure, but that only delayed the inevitable as Djokovic smashed his opponent on the second request and it turned out to be the knockout blow.
Tsitsipas showed impressive mental toughness to hold onto serve against two more break points to at least keep that fifth set competitive, but there was nothing he could do to stop Djokovic’s relentless barrage of shots.
The Serb was not wrong in serving for the championship at 5-4, winning his second title at Roland Garros to become the third man in history after Rod Laver and Roy Emerson to win every Grand Slam at least twice .