French Open: Talking points from Roland Garros with Novak Djokovic and Barbora Krejcikova the big winners

Novak Djokovic rewrote the history books once again by fighting back from two sets to love down to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas and win a 19th Grand Slam title
at the French Open. Can he be stopped from claiming an unprecedented Golden Slam in 2021?

Having dethroned 13-time champion Rafael Nadal in an epic semi-final, Djokovic displayed remarkable resolve to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets – prevailing from two sets down in a Grand Slam final for the first time in his career.

The world No 1 became the first male player in the open era to have won each Grand Slam at least twice, and his second French Open success takes him to within one solitary major title of Nadal and Roger Federer.

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A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole)

And he’ll get further opportunities to create history in the coming months with Wimbledon and the US Open to come. The 34-year-old is not only chasing a Calendar Grand Slam but a Golden Slam with the Tokyo Olympics also on his radar this summer.

“Everything is possible,” said Djokovic. “Definitely in my case, I can say that what I’ve been through in my career, in my life, this journey has been terrific so far. I’ve achieved some things that a lot of people thought it would be not possible for me to achieve.”

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A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole)

Women’s strength in depth shines through

Roland Garros provided the latest insight into the depth of talent the women’s game continues to boast as unseeded Barbora Krejcikova stormed to an unlikely maiden Grand Slam singles title having progressed beyond qualifying at a major on just four occasions in the past.

In doing so Krejcikova also extended the French Open’s streak of six consecutive first-time women’s champions.

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A post shared by Barbora Krejčíková (@bkrejcikova)

It should be reminded that world No 1 Ashleigh Barty and No 3 Simona Halep were both injured and Naomi Osaka withdrew from the tournament, but those remaining could only face the players in front of them. And that they did, taking full advantage of a wide-open competition.

Anybody can beat anybody on the women’s tour, and that can only be a good thing.

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Rafa & Novak treat us to a late-night classic

Oh how we’ll miss the ‘Big Three’ when they’re gone. While the long-awaited Euro 2020 championships kicked off in Italy, Djokovic and Nadal lured eyes to an exhibition of clay artistry as the world No 1 spectacularly halted the latter on his path towards a 14th Roland Garros singles title in one of the most encapsulating semi-finals in the sport’s history.

Heading into the contest Djokovic had described a clay matchup with perennial French Open champion Nadal as the ‘biggest challenge’; having battled to a 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 win he labelled it as an occasion he will never forget.

Nadal had been 26-0 upon reaching the semi-finals at the tournament, which he entered with a 105-2 record since his bow in 2005. It was a task that drew every ounce of Djokovic’s technical brilliance to slay the Parisian beast.

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11pm curfews

It was quite the sign of the times when fans erupted into cheers as they were informed they could break the 11pm curfew to watch the entirety of Djokovic and Nadal’s blockbuster semi-final.

There had been a 9pm curfew in place for the first 10 days of the tournament, before that was shifted to 11pm as the 1,000 capacity allowance was increased to 5,000.

Djokovic’s quarter-final matchup with Italy’s Matteo Berrettini was notably disrupted for 20 minutes as some of those in attendance protested after being asked to leave during the fourth set, one fan shouting ‘Rip-off’ while exiting.

It made for an eerie silence upon the pair’s return to court and yet another reminder of what tennis misses out on without full stands. To think some could well have missed the conclusion of Djokovic and Nadal’s epic.

39 years later…

A special mention to Joe Salisbury, who ended Britain’s 39-year wait for a main draw title at Roland Garros by winning the mixed doubles with American Desirae Krawczyk.

Salisbury’s second Grand Slam title saw him match the feat of John Lloyd, who won the mixed doubles at the French Open with Australian Wendy Turnbull back in 1982.

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A post shared by Desirae (@des_krawczyk11)

It continues Salisbury’s ascent after he triumphed in the 2020 Australian Open men’s doubles alongside Rajeev Ram before reaching the final the following year having also made it to the semi-finals of the US Open in between.

Osaka’s withdrawal exposes flaws

Naomi Osaka was met by a wave of support from fellow athletes and fans as she made the decision to pull out of the tournament having been threatened with expulsion in light of her announcement that she would not partake in press conferences due to the effects of reporters questions on her mental health.

The four-time Grand Slam champion said she had been prepared for the fine that athletes face for boycotting media duties; instead her treatment depicted a concerning lack of empathy from organisers who later accepted that the sport’s governing bodies need to do better on mental health issues.

anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.

Upon withdrawing Osaka revealed that she suffers from depression and is overcome by anxiety ahead of meetings with the press. Her bravery in admitting a sensitive issue comes as yet another powerful message for young men, women, boys and girls feeling a similar way to talk.

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No sign of home success, yet…

Henri Leconte is the last French man to have reached a French Open final when he was beaten by Sweden’s Mats Wilander in 1988, with Yannick Noah the last French man to win a men’s singles title at Roland Garros when he overcame Wilander in 1983.

Mary Pierce is meanwhile the last French women to have both reached a Paris final (2005) and clinched a singles title on home soil (2000), the latter coming courtesy of a straight-sets win over Spain’s Conchita Martínez. It begs the question as to who looms as France’s next hope?

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A post shared by Luca Van Assche (@lucavanassche)

That being said, there could be hope on the horizon after Luca Van Assche beat Arthur Fils to win the boys single title in what was the first Grand Slam junior tournament to feature all-French semi-finalists.

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