French Open: Djokovic storms back to make history with second Roland Garros triumph

By Sports Desk June 13, 2021

Novak Djokovic made history in sensational fashion by storming back from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a pulsating French Open final.

Tsitsipas looked to be on course to become the first Greek major champion, but legendary top seed Djokovic produced a stirring fightback to win a thriller 6-7 (6-8) 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 at Roland Garros on Sunday.

The indefatigable world number one etched his name in the record books on Court Philippe-Chatrier, becoming the first man in the Open Era - and only the third of all time - to triumph at each grand slam at least twice.

Djokovic had never won a major from two sets behind in a championship match but is just one shy of the record tally of 20 grand slam titles held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who he beat in an epic semi-final on Friday.

Tsitsipas appeared to be increasingly hampered by a hip injury as he endured heartbreak in his first grand slam final.

The 2016 champion won three service games without losing a point in a strong start on a sunny afternoon in Paris and there was relief when he picked himself up following a fall at speed while running at full tilt trying to retrieve return a deft drop shot.

A sprightly Tsitsipas was feeding off the energy of the crowd and had a set point after Djokovic skewed a forehand wide, but the 34-year-old showed the mentality of an all-time great to get himself out of a hole and broke in the next game when a stray forehand from the fifth seed put him 6-5 down.

Djokovic was clearly struggling with the sun in his eyes as he failed to serve out the set and Tsitsipas charged into a 4-0 lead in a brilliant tie-break, which he eventually won after saving a set point with a majestic forehand winner down the line.

Tsitsipas maintained the momentum, breaking in the opening game of the second set when Djokovic sent a forehand beyond the baseline and continuing to show rapid pace over the court.

The 22-year-old was relentless, returning superbly and unleashing a serious of glorious winners as he went a double break up before serving out the set in ruthless fashion.

Yet Djokovic hit back like he has done so many times over the years in the third set, taking a 3-1 lead by grasping his fifth break-point opportunity of a marathon game in which he put his opponent under huge pressure with a string of searing, precise returns. 

The Serbian's forehand was firing on all cylinders as he sealed the set, then broke in the first game of the fourth and again to lead 3-0 with a sublime drop shot.

Tsitsipas' unforced error count was rising rapidly and he was not moving as freely, with the wind in Djokovic's sails as he levelled the match.

World number five Tsitsipas held after saving a break point in the first game of the decider but Djokovic was not to be denied a 2-1 lead, forcing an error as he continued to show astonishing staying power along with finesse and power.

Tsitsipas showed great fight but Djokovic served out a match of such high drama to get his hands on La Coupe des Mousquetaires once again.

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  • Katie Boulter eager to continue rankings rise after ‘very special’ San Diego win Katie Boulter eager to continue rankings rise after ‘very special’ San Diego win

    Katie Boulter has set her sights on pushing further up the rankings after winning the biggest title of her career.

    The British number one defeated five top-40 players to win the San Diego Open, bringing her a first WTA 500 trophy and elevating her ranking to 27.

    With Cameron Norrie slipping to 28, it means Boulter is the highest-ranked British singles player of either gender heading into the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which begins on Wednesday.

     

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    A post shared by Katie Boulter (@katiecboulter)

     

    The same week a year ago, Boulter was ranked outside the world’s top 150, and she does not have many points to defend until the grass-court tournament in Nottingham in June, where last year she picked up her first WTA title.

    “I feel like I’ve started the year very well and I’ve given myself the best opportunity to set myself up for the rest of the year,” said 27-year-old Boulter.

    “I’ve got a free swing, I don’t really have too much pressure. I’m just here enjoying myself and working as hard as I possibly can with a great team. You never know what could happen so I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.”

    The weekend was made even more special for Boulter by the success of boyfriend Alex De Minaur, who successfully defended his title in Acapulco on Saturday before catching an early morning flight to cheer on the British star.

    They join the likes of former couples Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert and Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters in winning titles on the same weekend, and Boulter said: “I think that is very cool.

    “I had no idea other people had done it. To share something with my other half is going to be something that we won’t forget.”

    While the two titles both earned their recipients 500 ranking points, De Minaur took home around £325,000 and Boulter just £112,000, highlighting the continuing disparity between the ATP and WTA Tour away from the biggest joint events.

    Boulter has mixed feelings, saying: “I’m obviously very happy with my first WTA 500 title, not too many players can say that they’ve won a 500 so I feel very special.

    “Regarding the prize money, I feel like there’s a lot of equality in our sport in the biggest events. I really hope that the WTA can continue to help bridge the gap between the other events.”

    There is parity in Indian Wells, where the tours come together at a big event for the first time since the Australian Open.

    Boulter’s elevation to the top 30 comes too late to earn her a seeding and she will be back in action on Wednesday against dangerous Italian Camila Giorgi.

    If she can maintain or improve her ranking through to the French Open and Wimbledon, she will earn herself a seeding, meaning she would not face a player in the top 32 until at least the third round.

    “It’s definitely an aim of mine,” said Boulter. “I want to make sure that I can get as close to a seeding as possible. At the moment I’m in but it takes time to build more ranking points and to get myself to that place.

    “Every single place in the ranking counts and I’ve just got to do my best because obviously it makes a difference as to who you play in the tournaments.”

    Boulter is joined in the Indian Wells draw by Emma Raducanu, who has been given a wild card and will take on a qualifier in the first round.

    Raducanu enjoyed one of her best weeks in the Californian desert last year, defying the wrist problems that subsequently forced her to go under the knife to reach the fourth round.

    Norrie has a bye in the men’s event as the 28th seed while Andy Murray plays a qualifier, Jack Draper meets Christopher O’Connell and Dan Evans plays Roman Safiullin.

    Rafael Nadal returns to the tour for the first time since suffering a muscle injury in Brisbane in January and will take on fellow veteran Milos Raonic, while Novak Djokovic makes his first appearance in Indian Wells for five years following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

  • What’s next for new world number 27 Katie Boulter after San Diego Open success? What’s next for new world number 27 Katie Boulter after San Diego Open success?

    Katie Boulter has stormed into the top 30 of the WTA rankings for the first time after she claimed San Diego Open success.

    British number one Boulter recovered from a set down to beat Marta Kostyuk 5-7 6-2 6-2 to clinch a maiden WTA 500 title.

    Here, the PA news agency looks at the rise of the new world number 27 and what is next.

    Always destined for stardom?

    Boulter has been a prominent name in British tennis circles since her teenage years and followed in the footsteps of her mother Susan by picking up a racket to represent her nation at junior level. A breakthrough Wimbledon in 2018 – where she tested Naomi Osaka – appeared the catalyst for the tall right-hander to kick on in her development after she reached 82 in the world, but a serious back injury a year later curtailed her progress.

    Road to recovery

    The spinal stress fracture in Boulter’s back forced her to miss the majority of 2019 and when she was finally fit again, the coronavirus pandemic sent the world into lockdown. After the tennis season did resume, minor injuries halted the momentum of Boulter, who won a low-level ITF event in Grenoble at the start of 2022 before a leg issue saw her sit out the clay-court season.

    Second Wimbledon breakthrough

     

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    A post shared by Katie Boulter (@katiecboulter)

     

    Boulter recovered in time to achieve a grand-slam best result with a run to the Wimbledon third round after victory over former world number one Karolina Pliskova. The next big challenge was to improve the robustness of her body after she built a strong team around her, which included coach Biljana Veselinovic and she kicked off 2023 with a number of fine displays in ITF tournaments. She beat compatriot Jodie Burrage to seal Canberra success before she made another two finals in Japan in May.

    Maiden WTA title

    The 2023 grass-court season started with Boulter making the last four at the Surbiton Trophy before she beat a string of compatriots to seal Nottingham Open success for her first victory at WTA 250 level. It was followed by third-round showings at both Wimbledon and the US Open to cap off an excellent year. The 27-year-old’s new-found confidence was on display for Great Britain at the United Cup in December where she got the better of top-five player Jessica Pegula before going all the way in San Diego.

    Can she surprise at Indian Wells?

    There will be little time for Boulter to celebrate the biggest victory of her career or the Mexican Open success of boyfriend Alex De Minaur, with both set to play in the women’s and men’s editions of the WTA 1000 tournament BNP Paribas Open, which starts this week. British number one Boulter enters after beating five top-50 opponents in San Diego to take her season record to 11 wins in 14 matches. A key feature of her form has been the Briton’s composure in crunch moments after she recovered from a number of first-set double-faults to beat Kostyuk and she will fancy her chances of causing a splash in Indian Wells with her booming forehand a match for anyone right now.

  • Katie Boulter thanks boyfriend Alex de Minaur after dash to watch San Diego win Katie Boulter thanks boyfriend Alex de Minaur after dash to watch San Diego win

    British number one Katie Boulter thanked boyfriend Alex de Minaur for racing over to California to watch her win a first WTA 500 tournament after his own success at the Mexican Open.

    The 27-year-old came from behind to claim the San Diego Open title with a 5-7 6-2 6-2 win over Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk and earn a second career title.

    Boulter’s victory was watched by De Minaur, who defended his Mexican Open title in Acapulco on Saturday before scheduling an early-morning flight to support her on Sunday.

    “I want to say a small special thank you to my boyfriend,” Boulter said post-match.

    “He finished last night at midnight and I really want to embarrass him. He got a 4.15 taxi this morning and six o’clock flight to be here today, so I do appreciate it.”

    After an even start to the match, Kostyuk began to get the better of Boulter and surged into a 5-2 lead.

    Boulter fought back to level at 5-5 but the sixth-seeded Ukrainian regained the momentum to wrap up the first set 7-5.

    Boulter then found her groove in the second, dominating on her first serve to clinch the set 6-2 and force a deciding third set.

    The Briton continued her ascendancy into the third, claiming the first break point of the set en route to opening up a 3-1 advantage.

    Boulter broke again in the seventh game and hit her first two aces of the match in the next to close out the victory in two hours and 13 minutes.

    The San Diego win is her second WTA title, adding to a maiden championship on grass in Nottingham last summer and Boulter reflected on a “special” week in California.

    “This week has been very, very special for so many different reasons,” she said post-match.

    “This one is pretty amazing, I’ve worked very hard for it, I played some incredible tennis all week.

    “Today was a complete battle, with myself as well because I was a little bit nervous. But I managed to get over the line and that I’m very proud of.

    “A lot of it was about me staying as tough as I possibly could mentally and I managed to keep my cool and actually kind of went within myself and calmed myself down a lot.

    “I think that really helped me and then I started to relax and play through shots a little bit more.”

    Boulter has had a flying start to the 2024 season and the victory over Kostyuk sees her break into the top 30 for the first time, now ranked 27th.

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