Novak Djokovic plays down fitness worries ahead of French Open final

Novak Djokovic plays down fitness worries after five-set epic with ‘fighter’ Stefanos Tsitsipas as he pledges ‘great battle’ with 12-time champion Rafa Nadal in Sunday’s French Open final

  • Djokovic overcame Tsitsipas in five sets in Friday night’s French Open semi-final
  • He allayed fitness concerns ahead of Sunday’s final showdown with Nadal
  • World No 1 had required treatment on his neck and arm during quarter-final
  • Djokovic promised a ‘great battle’ with 12-time Roland Garros champions Nadal 

Novak Djokovic allayed fitness concerns ahead of his French Open final showdown with Rafa Nadal despite a tough five-set match against ‘fighter’ Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The world No 1 appeared to be cruising to a quick straight sets victory over his Greek opponent but allowed Tsitsipas to battle back.

Djokovic ultimately prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 in Paris in a match that lasted three hours and 54 minutes.

Novak Djokovic roars after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the French Open final

Tsitsipas came back from two sets down on Friday but ran out of steam in the deciding set

It wasn’t ideal after the Serb required treatment on his neck and arm during his quarter-final win over Pablo Carreno Busta at Roland Garros.

But Djokovic was quick to play down any injury fears as he turned his focus to what promises to be an epic with 12-time French Open champion Nadal.

‘I’m not feeling exhausted physically so much after tonight’s match,’ he said.

‘It was a great battle but I feel fine. I think a day and a half will be plenty of time for me to recover. I’m looking forward to a great battle with Rafa.’

This will be their third meeting in the French Open final after Nadal triumphed in 2012 and 2014.

He faces a purring Rafael Nadal, a man who has never lost a final in 12 efforts at Roland Garros

World No 1 Djokovic was full of praise for his Greek opponent following their five-set epic 

Djokovic has won just the once in Paris – in 2016 – while Nadal, 34, remains the master on this surface.

Despite being pegged back in the third and fourth sets against Tsitsipas, Djokovic was still satisfied by his overall performance.

‘I was definitely not pleased with the way I played the finishing stages of the third and fourth sets but I was very pleased with the way I kept my composure mentally throughout the entire match,’ he said.

‘I did feel that even though I lost the third and fourth, I still felt like I was the better player on the court. I had more control. I just felt comfortable playing.

Nadal played down expectations before the tournament began but looks back to his best now

‘Credit to him for fighting back. He just played terrific tennis, especially in the fourth set when he was facing break points… He’s a fighter.

‘He’s one of the best players in the world. There was a lot at stake for him. He was motivated to try to turn the match around, which he did very well.

‘But in the end I think he ran out of gas. That’s when I stepped up, used my opportunities when they were presented in the fifth and closed out the match in a great fashion.’

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