Novak Djokovic Wins French Open, Completes Career Grand Slam

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Novak Djokovic has reached the final at Roland Garros four times. In all four attempts, at some point in the match, he was viewed as the favorite. In 2012, it looked like he was on his way to victory in the rainy conditions, but when play was stopped he was unable to continue his dominant form in dryer conditions the next day. In 2014, it looked like he finally had Rafael Nadal‘s number after dominating the first set, but it didn’t last. Last year, Djokovic was a heavy favorite coming in, only to be blasted off the court by Stan Wawrinka.

Djokovic had every reason to get down on himself after losing last year. He wants to complete this career Grand Slam and has not been shy about letting people know that. How did he respond to last year’s shocking loss? He responded by having the greatest single 52-week stretch in the Open Era (at least, according to ranking points). He has won three Slams, won the ATP World Tour Finals, and won five Masters 1000 titles while reaching the final in three others. Djokovic has absolutely dominated this sport for the past year (and, to a lesser extent, the five years before that).

Novak Djokovic Wins French Open, Completes Career Grand Slam

The only piece missing on the Djokovic mantle is the Coupe des Mousquetaires, the trophy given to the French Open Men’s champion. Which brings us to today. Today, for the fourth time, Djokovic was one match away from lifting the trophy. For the first time, his opponent in this final was Andy Murray.

For much of his highly-successful career, Murray has lacked any accolades whatsoever on clay. He did not even reach the final of a clay tournament until last year. Murray’s form on clay drastically improved in 2015, though, as he has been able to play more aggressive tennis from inside the baseline. Many finally believed that he might be capable of Roland Garros success when he dominated Nadal in last year’s Madrid final. That belief was cemented when he beat Djokovic in the Madrid final this year. Murray had some struggles early in the French Open this year, but he made his way to the final.

This is where we stood early Sunday afternoon in Paris, on a cloudy day that was thankfully unmarred by rain. Djokovic was on the cusp of finally completing his elusive Career Grand Slam. Murray was the challenger, standing in his way and angling for his third career Grand Slam title. The two play similar defense-to-offense baseline styles, so any match between these two is a tense, grinding affair that usually comes down to who can stay inside the baseline the most.

Djokovic jumped out to an early break lead in the first set, but Murray responded strongly. Murray got the break back then quickly earned another break, which he rode out to the end of the first set. From then, though, it looked like Murray was in trouble. Djokovic was clearly playing more aggressive and attacking tennis than him, and there didn’t seem to be much that Murray was able to do about it. Djokovic raced to winning the second set in just over 30 minutes and followed that up with an early break in the third, which he turned into another quick set victory.

After a break to open the fourth set, history was in sight. Murray looked a little fatigued at times, but it was far more than that. Djokovic was just unstoppable. Murray did not earn a single break after the first set until the very end of the match. Djokovic’s defense was just too good and he kept Murray pinned behind the baseline when the Serbian went on the attack. Murray put up a spirited defense, finally earning back one of the two breaks in the fourth set, but in the end, Djokovic’s win was inevitable with the way he dominated after the first set. It took just over three hours, but Djokovic finally made his history.

So what does this mean, in the grand scheme of things? First of all, Djokovic finally has the weight of expectations and the lack of a French Open title off his chest. He is now the eighth man in history to win all four Grand Slams, and only the third (joining Don Budge and Roger Laver) to hold all four at once. The last time a man held all four Slams was 1969, when Rod Laver did it (for a second time in his career). That is rarefied air. It is something that neither Nadal or Roger Federer, often discussed as two of the greatest ever, were able to achieve.

Djokovic is now within striking distance of many other tennis records. He has a stranglehold on the World #1 ranking for at least the next six months (and probably longer than that), which will put him just over a year away from Federer’s record for weeks at #1. Unless Murray has a miracle second-half of the season, Djokovic will end this year at World #1, marking his fifth such year–tying Federer and only one behind Pete Sampras’ record of six.

Djokovic has now won 12 Slams, and no one really looks like they are in a position to challenge him consistently. Roger Federer’s record of 17 is still far off, but if Djokovic is still winning Slams at a clip of 2-3 per year, then we will be discussing the possibility of 18 long before Djokovic fades from the spotlight.

With this win, Djokovic will improve upon his own record for ranking points earned in a 52-week span, again redefining what a dominant year looks like. Who will be able to step up to stop him, and when? Because right now, Novak Djokovic has the tennis world by the throat.

Enjoy what you read? Check out all of LWOS’ complete coverage of the 2016 French Open.

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