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Two Sets Down, But Still Too Tough and Too Good: Djokovic Beats Tsitsipas for French Open Title No. 2

By Ricky Dimon

Time and time again this season, and really throughout his entire career, Novak Djokovic has been proving that he can flip a switch and suddenly deliver his very best tennis whenever it matters most.

At the Australian Open he defeated Taylor Fritz in five sets despite being less than 100 percent in their third-round match. Djokovic went on to capture a ninth title Down Under.

At the French Open, he came back from two sets down to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the fourth round. Two matches later he lost the first five games against Rafael Nadal but then recovered to win one of the best sets in tournament history en route to a four-set victory.

All of that set the stage for similar theatrics in Sunday’s final. Facing Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost to Djokovic in…you guessed it…five sets in last year’s semifinals, the world No. 1 fell into another two-set hole. But with the pressure mounting, he once again rose to the occasion on one of the biggest stages in tennis and eventually triumphed 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 after four hours and 11 minutes.

Having now won two titles at Roland Garros, Djokovic has completed the double-career Grand Slam. Yes, he is the first man in Open Era history to win all four slams at least twice. His 19th major title overall leaves him just one behind Nadal and Roger Federer.

“Of course I am thrilled and I’m very proud of this achievement,” Djokovic said of the double-career slam. “I think part of the history of the sport that I love with all my heart is always something that is very inspiring and very fulfilling for me. I couldn’t be happier and more satisfied with this kind of scenario in the last 48 hours.

“(It) probably ranks at the top three all-time achievements and experiences that I had in my professional tennis career — going through four-and-a-half battle with Rafa on his court, then bouncing back after not practicing yesterday, just coming in today with as much as recharged batteries and energy regained to fight another battle of four-and-a-half hours against Tsitsipas.”

For a while it looked like Tsitsipas would pull off a stunning upset well before getting to the four-hour mark. Playing in his first major final, the 22-year-old got the best of an incredible first set and then dominated the second from start to finish.

Thereafter, though, Djokovic’s rise coincided with a dip in Tsitsipas’ form. Although it was by no means an all-out collapse, the Greek–like so many others before him–knows that giving Djokovic even the smallest of openings is an opening that cannot be given.

“What I learned today is that no matter what, in order for the match to be finished you have to win three sets and not two,” Tsitsipas noted. “Two sets doesn’t really mean anything. It’s still one away of winning the entire match….

“I really wish I could understand why things like this happened and evolved. But I was trying to figure it out during my game. It was difficult to come up with something. It’s very unfortunate; very sad in the same way because it was a good opportunity. I was playing good. I was feeling good. Yeah, I lost an opportunity to do something better today.”

Still, the world No. 5 leaves Roland Garros with no regrets.

“I don’t think I have regrets. Could have easily cried, but I see no reason for me crying because I tried everything. I couldn’t come up with anything better.”

Against Djokovic, sometimes–in fact, almost always–even your best is not enough.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.