Novak Djokovic came from two sets to love down for the first time at a Grand Slam on Sunday, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the French Open final.
The Serb claimed his 19th singles title at a major, putting within one of all-time co-leaders Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the rival who Djokovic defeated in the semi-finals.
Fifth seed Tsitsipas looked like giving Greece an historic first Grand Slam title before a combination of Djokovic’s aggressive game and an apparent hip problem slowed his progres in a battle lasting for nearly four and a quarter hours.
Djokivic, winner of the Australian Open in February, was thrilled with his comeback.
“It was an electric ambience from the first point,” the ATP No. 1 said. “This match was not easy physically or mentally.
“It was very very difficult for me to win, but I believed in my game and my ability after playing for nearly nine hours over the last 48 hours.”
The Serb lifted his previous trophy here in 2016 when he defeated Andy Murray.
Djokovic and Nadal have won nine of the last 10 Grand Slam titles (since 2018 Roland Garros), with Dominic Thiem the only other player to claim a major (2020 US Open). Djokovic has claimed five to Nadal’s four.
The win edged Djokovic’s record over Tsitsipas to 6-2.
The Greek made his presence known from the start, saving two break points in the opening game and seizing the 1-0 lead with three straight aces past Djokovic.
The pair continued on serve, with Djokovic salvaging a set point to stay in touch, 5-5. But the top seed was broken for 6-all, with Tsitsipas running off 4-0 in the decider.
Djokovic caught up at 5-5 but then failed on a set point, opening the door for his opponent to take the lead after 70 minutes.
Tsitsipas carried his momentum into the second set, breaking to start and taking a 5-2 lead as Djokovic handed over a double break on the third chance for the Greek.
Tsitsipas polished off a two-sets-to-love lead as he served it out moments later.
Djokovic took a 3-1 lead in the third set as he won an 11-minute game, breaking Tsitsipas on a fifth chance as the Greek drove a backhand wide.
But the Serb got on the scoreboard as he made a match of it by taking the third set as Tsitsipas took a brief medical timeout for treatment on his left hip.
In the fourth, Tsitsipas was broken to start as Djokovic increased the pressure to throw the match into the play-it-out final set.
Tsitsipas blinked first in the fifth as he dropped serve in the third game, giving Djokovic a 2-1 lead.
The Serb maintained his distance, with Tsitsipas holding to 4-5 before Djokovic took victory on his second match point with a winner to the empty court.
Tsitsipas came to the match with a Tour-leading 22-3 record on clay this season.