Novak Djokovic cruised into the third round of Wimbledon as he claimed a straight sets win over Kevin Anderson.

Aiming for his sixth title at the All England Club, the defending champion put in an ominous showing as far as his rivals are concerned, running out a 6-3 6-3 6-3 winner.

He will now either Italy's Andreas Seppi or American Denis Kudla in the next round.

Djokovic's defence got off to an imperfect start on Monday as he dropped the opening set en route to victory over British wildcard Jack Draper.

But, rather than his opponent, the biggest threat to the Serbian's supremacy in this one seemed to come from the uncertain conditions underfoot on Centre Court.

As has been the case for many players so far at The Championships, Djokovic struggled to get to grips with a slippy court as he repeatedly tumbled early doors.

However, he slowly began to find his stride before a break in the eighth game handed him a lead that was comfortably served out for the first set.

Anderson's confidence appeared to take a hit from that setback and he narrowly survived a break scare in the first game of the second set as a result.

But the South African could not keep his opponent at bay for long, Djokovic going a break ahead in the seventh game with a sumptuous lob from deep before claiming another to see out the set.

The top seed wasted little time in wrapping up the match from there, claiming the crucial break of a third set that lasted just 32 minutes in its eighth game.

Anderson recovered the first of three break points with two impressive serves but could do little with a blistering return that put him on the back foot before losing the third.

And Djokovic's victory was wrapped up in the subsequent service game as his opponent hit a return long to bring the match to a close after an hour and 41 minutes.

Data slam: Flawless Djokovic sets out stall

Speaking to the BBC after his win over Anderson, a confident Djokovic shared his belief that he had put in a "flawless" showing.

Amd, while his demanding coach Marian Vajda is unlikely to agree, at times this performance was about as close as you can get to such lofty descriptions.

Djokovic ended the match with just six unforced errors to his name as he dealt with one of the biggest hitters on tour by continually prolonging rallies with his vast range of shots.

Clearly it is going to take something impressive to dethrone the Serbian, who has no intention of letting his Wimbledon crown go unless it is dragged away from him.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 25/6
Anderson – 24/26

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 9/1
Anderson – 11/4

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 4/8
Anderson – 0/0

Novak Djokovic came from a set down to start his Wimbledon defence with an ultimately comfortable victory over Jack Draper in the first round.

Djokovic can move level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a record 20 grand slam singles titles if he prevails again at the All England Club.

But he found himself unexpectedly trailing against the British teenager after a rusty first set, Djokovic having had little time to adapt to the grass following the clay-court season that saw him win the French Open.

However, Djokovic soon found his rhythm despite an admirable display from the wildcard and will now face either Kevin Anderson or Marcelo Barrios Vera in the second round after a 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-2 win.

A shaky service game saw Draper claim the first break of the match, an advantage he was able to cling on to as Djokovic failed to take any of his seven break points.

But the world number one was ruthless in the second, taking his first opportunity to break as he surged into a 3-0 lead en route to levelling the match emphatically.

A mishit overhead from the big-serving Draper helped Djokovic forge ahead in the third and there was no way back for Draper thereafter.

Indeed, by the fourth, Djokovic was in full flow, excelling with his serve, his footwork and the accuracy of his groundstrokes, the slickness of a Centre Court not played on for two years causing more problems than Draper as he clinched triumph in just over two hours.

After an enforced hiatus in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, tennis returns to SW19.

Novak Djokovic makes his way back to Wimbledon as the defending champion and with the men's grand slam record firmly in his sight.

Djokovic conquered Rafael Nadal en route to French Open glory and his 19th slam crown – one shy of the record shared by rivals Nadal and Roger Federer.

With Nadal and Dominic Thiem absent, Djokovic's path to a 20th major trophy has opened up in London.

The women's title is up for grabs after holder Simona Halep withdrew, and Serena Williams can still dream of making history.

As all eyes shift to the All England Club, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

Dominant Djokovic

World number one and top seed Djokovic begins his title defence against promising Briton Jack Draper in the first round.

French Open champion Djokovic has won four of the last six Wimbledon tournaments, including each of the past two – the last player to win more at Wimbledon in a row was Federer between 2003 and 2007 (five).

A five-time Wimbledon winner, Djokovic is the only man to have won the first two grand slam tournaments of a calendar year over the last 25 years, doing it in 2016 and 2021. The last man to win the first three grand slams of a calendar year was Rod Laver during his Grand Slam in 1969.

The 2019 Wimbledon final was the first slam decider to be decided by a final set tie-break, with Djokovic beating Federer 7-3 in that tiebreak, while it was also the longest final in Wimbledon history (four hours, 57 minutes).

No man has won Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year since Nadal in 2010.

 

Federer farewell?

The curtain appears to be closing on all-time great Federer, who withdrew from the French Open after a draining four-set win over Dominik Koepfer to preserve his body for the grass season.

This year's Wimbledon could be the 39-year-old's final realistic shot at a grand slam as Djokovic bids to become the greatest of all.

Seeded sixth, Federer – who meets Adrian Mannarino first up – has won the most Wimbledon titles among all male players in the slam's history.

Federer will aim to win his 21st grand slam, which would break a tie with Nadal for the outright men's record.

 

The 'Big Four' and their stranglehold

Injuries have forced two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray to fall out of the equation but there has been no getting past the original 'Big Four'.

Among the men, the last 17 years of Wimbledon has been dominated by the same four players – Federer (eight titles), Djokovic (five), Nadal (two), Murray (two). The last winner at Wimbledon before them was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

Since Wimbledon in 2004, only one of the 68 slams has not seen at least one of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal in the semi-finals – it was at the US Open last year.

The new generation is headlined by grand slam runners-up Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Medvedev has never passed the third round at Wimbledon, though his two defeats at that stage have both been in five sets. The Russian second seed has reached at least the quarter-finals in three of his last four major tournaments, after reaching that stage in only one of his previous 13.

Beaten by Djokovic in the Roland Garros final, Tsitsipas has reached the semi-finals in his last three slams, having done so only once in his previous 12. The third seed has never reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, however.

Wimbledon is the only slam where fourth seed Alexander Zverev is yet to reach the quarter-final, his best result being a fourth-round performance in 2017. Since the beginning of 2020, he has advanced to the semi-finals in three slam tournaments, after never doing it in his previous 18 such major main-draw appearances.

 

Serena's ongoing quest

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

Williams, who lost in the French Open fourth round, has won seven Wimbledon titles (level with Steffi Graf) – only Martina Navratilova has more in the Open Era (nine).

American superstar Williams has been a Wimbledon runner-up in 2018 and 2019. Chris Evert is the only player in the Open Era to have lost three consecutive Wimbledon finals (between 1978 and 1980).

Williams, the sixth seed who will clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the opening round, is looking to become only the second woman to win 100 Wimbledon singles matches (currently 98), alongside Navratilova (120). She could also become the first woman to reach 100-plus wins in two different majors (106 wins at the US Open).

From the first Wimbledon final reached by one Williams sister in 2000 (won by Venus against Lindsay Davenport), only in four of 20 editions has neither of the two sisters reached the decider – in 2006 (Amelie Mauresmo-Justine Henin), 2011 (Petra Kvitova-Maria Sharapova), 2013 (Marion Bartoli-Sabine Lisicki) and 2014 (Kvitova-Eugenie Bouchard).

 

Barty party?

Former French Open champion Ash Barty heads to Wimbledon as the top seed and will kick off her title bid against veteran Carla Suarez Navarro.

However, world number one Barty has never reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals. Reaching the 2019 fourth round was her best result. The last Australian woman to reach the quarters at Wimbledon was Jelena Dokic in 2000.

The top seed in the Wimbledon women's singles main draw has been eliminated in the first round just three times in the Open Era – Graf in 1994, Martina Hingis in 1999 and Hingis again in 2001.

Wimbledon is the only major won by Kvitova in her career (2011 and 2014). She is one among the three current players with multiple titles at the All England Club, alongside Serena and Venus Williams.

Karolina Pliskova was the woman with the most aces per match made on average at Wimbledon 2019 (9.0, 36 in total) among players who reached the third round.

Novak Djokovic spent the week before Wimbledon enjoying a challenge for a most unlikely title in Mallorca.

The Serbian reached his first men's doubles final for 11 years when he and Carlos Gomez-Herrera knocked out the third seeds on Thursday. Were it not for an injury to the Spaniard forcing them to withdraw, you would not have put it past Djokovic, a man with 83 singles titles, to have lifted what would have been just a second doubles trophy in his career.

"I don't think we expected to reach the finals," Djokovic admitted after an unexpected, liberating week. "Everything clicked quite amazingly."

That Djokovic could prepare to defend his Wimbledon title by experimenting in the doubles in the Spanish sun should serve as a warning to the rest of the draw. He has not played a Tour-level singles match since that exhausting, extraordinary win at the French Open where he inflicted on Rafael Nadal just the third Roland Garros defeat of his career before recovering from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. That treacherous transition from clay to grass is no problem at all, such is Djokovic's belief in his own powers.

And why not? He has been close to untouchable in 2021: 27 wins and as many titles as defeats, his three trophy wins including the first two grand slams of the year. He has 19 now, just one behind all-time record holders Nadal – who withdrew from Wimbledon and the Olympics after a gruelling clay season – and Roger Federer, who has played only eight matches since the 2020 Australian Open following two knee operations. Djokovic has won four of the past six championships at SW19 and is bidding to become the first man to win three in a row since Federer managed four from 2004 to 2007.

For Federer, 2021 has been about building for these next two months, for another fortnight in London and a final shot at Olympic singles gold. He pulled out of Roland Garros after a draining four-set win over Dominik Koepfer to preserve his body for the grass season, but his bid for an 11th title in Halle ended in a dispiriting second-round loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime.

 

Federer would not admit it publicly, nor perhaps even to himself, but Wimbledon 2021 represents his best remaining chance at winning a major, not least with Nadal and fourth seed Dominic Thiem having pulled out. He should have taken the title the last time the event was played two years ago, when Djokovic survived two match points to win the longest final in history in four hours and 57 minutes. Now 39, having to pick and choose his matches to prolong his career, that unpalatable moment when Federer puts down his racquet for good is starting to loom large on the horizon.

It leaves things beautifully poised at the top of the men's game. Djokovic has always been hindered in conversations around the 'big three'. The 34-year-old has never won the hearts of the wider tennis public in quite the same way as Roger and Rafa, in spite of his best – and occasionally misguided – efforts.

Yet the fact remains we are entering a critical point in this particular GOAT debate. Djokovic leads the head-to-head record against Federer (27-23) and Nadal (30-28). He is the only man in the Open Era to win all four grand slams twice. Nobody has won more Masters 1000 titles (36, level with Nadal), and nobody else has won all nine of those events. He has been world number one for 326 weeks – also a record. And all of his major titles bar one have come in the past 10 years, a time in which Nadal has won 11 and Federer four. This has truly been his decade – at least, if you ignore the doubles.

Should Djokovic win a sixth Wimbledon title, and should he follow that with major number 21 at the US Open, there will be little objective reason not to crown him the greatest men's player ever to play the sport. He knows that.

Perhaps Federer does, too. The lingering regret of losing three finals here to Djokovic, the lure of lifting this trophy for a ninth time, the prospect of halting the Serbian's conquest of the game –perhaps that will inspire the Swiss to what would surely be the greatest triumph of his career. Perhaps, just once more, everything will click.

Novak Djokovic will start the defence of his Wimbledon title against British wildcard Jack Draper, and Serena Williams takes on Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round.

Djokovic is just one grand slam title away from matching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's record tally of 20 after winning the Australian Open and French Open this year.

The world number one will take on 19-year-old Draper, a quarter-finalist at Queen's Club last week, in his first match at SW19 for two years after the 2020 championships were called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Djokovic faces a potential quarter-final against Andrey Rublev, while Federer could come up against second seed Daniil Medvedev in last eight.

 

First up for eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer is an encounter with Adrian Mannarino, while injury-plagued two-time winner Andy Murray will start his home major against the 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, beaten by Djokovic in a thrilling French Open final this month, has been drawn to face American Frances Tiafoe in round one of a tournament that gets under way on Monday.

Simona Halep announced just before the draw was made on Friday that she would not defend her title due to a calf injury.

Williams, runner-up to Halep in the 2019 final, must get past Sasnovich of Belarus in the first round and could face third seed Elina Svitolina at the quarter-final stage.

World number one and top seed Ash Barty takes on Carla Suarez Navarro, who made a grand slam return at Roland Garros after recovering from cancer. Barty could come up against Bianca Andreescu in the last eight.

Petra Kvitova against Sloane Stephens is a standout first-round match, while Coco Gauff's first assignment will be a meeting with 20-year-old Briton Fran Jones.

Dominic Thiem will seek the advice of a specialist in Barcelona after suffering an injury scare ahead of Wimbledon next week.

Number two seed Thiem retired due to a wrist injury when 5-2 up in the opening set against Adrian Mannarino in the Mallorca Championships on Tuesday.

An MRI conducted at a Mallorca hospital was inconclusive, so the US Open champion will now undergo further tests.

In an update on Wednesday, Thiem wrote on social media: "Yesterday during the match I had a problem with my wrist.

"I went immediately to do an MRI at the hospital in Palma de Mallorca. The results weren't that clear and I have decided to go to Barcelona to check with a specialist.

"I hope I can get the results and a clear diagnosis in the next days."

The ATP 250 event continued without him in Mallorca, as Roberto Bautista Agut moved into the quarter-finals with a 6-3 7-5 triumph over Italian Stefano Travaglia.

More Spanish success on home soil arrived as Pablo Carreno Busta won 6-4 6-4 against Jiri Vesely.

In the doubles, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Gomez-Herrera saw off top seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos to reach the last four in that competition.

Djokovic appears to be enjoying himself as he continues to prepare for Wimbledon, saying: "This was a huge win for us, beating one of the best doubles players in the world after losing the first set.

"We are having a lot of fun on the court. I thought we played well even though we lost the first set."

There was a major upset at the Viking International in Eastbourne, meanwhile, with number one seed Gael Monfils suffering a shock last-16 defeat to Australia's Max Purcell – ranked number 283 in the world.

Purcell, who is only in the tournament as a lucky loser, claimed a huge 6-4 5-7 6-4 win in a battle lasting over two hours.

Monfils fired down 16 aces and fought back after being within two points of defeat in the second set but was ultimately beaten and has not made an ATP quarter-final since February 2020.

"It feels unbelievable," said Purcell. "I thought I'd come out and have a go. 

"I've struggled to get into any singles events over the past nine months and primarily played doubles, so to get on a run here, on my favourite surface, is great."

Purcell will take on Andreas Seppi – a comfortable winner over Emil Ruusuvuori – in the last eight.

While Monfils crashed out, there was less drama for the second and third seeds. 

Alex de Minaur won 6-3 6-4 against home hope Liam Broady, while Lorenzo Sonego was a 6-4 6-2 victor in his contest with John Millman.

Feliciano Lopez reached the milestone of 500 ATP Tour wins with a comeback victory over Karen Khachanov at the Mallorca Championships.

Lopez, who turns 40 in September, prevailed 4-6 6-2 6-4 against the sixth seed.

He is the 10th active player to reach 500 wins, after Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Richard Gasquet, Fernando Verdasco, Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka and Tommy Robredo.

"More than the 500 wins, the important thing to me is the chance to keep playing in these kinds of tournaments and to keep being competitive," Lopez told ATPTour.com.

"I didn’t expect to be able to play at the level I am on the ATP Tour at 40 years of age, which I will be in September."

Spanish veteran Lopez would have expected to be taking on Dominic Thiem next, but the world number five retired due to a wrist injury when 5-2 to the good in the opening set against Adrian Mannarino.

"It's nice for me to be in the quarter-finals, but winning this way is not so cool. I really like Dominic, he's such a nice guy and I hope he will be feeling better soon," Mannarino said. "I hope it is not so serious, especially right before Wimbledon."

Elsewhere on the Balearic island, top seed Daniil Medvedev breezed past Corentin Moutet 6-4 6-2, while Casper Ruud defeated Tennys Sandgren in straight sets.

At the Viking International in Eastbourne, there were mixed fortunes for Lopez's countrymen Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Fokina, seeded sixth, saw off Mikael Ymer 7-5 6-1, but number seven seed Ramos-Vinolas fell 6-4 6-3 to Emil Ruusuvuori.

Alexander Bublik defeated fellow Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin is straight sets, while Jo-Wilfred Tsonga went down in similar fashion against Egor Gerasimov.

Rafael Nadal will not compete at Wimbledon or the Olympic Games as he bids to prolong his prolific career.

The 20-time grand slam champion was knocked out of the French Open at the semi-final stage by eventual winner Novak Djokovic.

And, with just a two-week gap to the grass-court slam in London, the 35-year-old has opted against taking part at the All England Club or the Games in Tokyo.

"Hi all, I have decided not to participate at this year's Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo," the Spaniard tweeted.

"It's never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss it with my team I understand that it is the right decision.

"The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at he maximum level of competition."

Nadal explained that the quick turnaround from a gruelling campaign in Paris to another tough schedule at Wimbledon presented too much of a risk to his fitness.

"The fact that there has only been two weeks between RG [Roland Garros] and Wimbledon didn't make it easier on my body to recuperate after the always demanding clay court season," he said.

"They have been two months of great effort and the decision I take is focused looking at the mid and long term.

"Sport prevention of any kind of excess in my body is a very important factor at this stage of my career in order to try to keep fighting for the highest level of competition and titles.

"I want to send a special message to my fans around the world, to those in the United Kingdom and Japan in particular.

"The Olympic Games always meant a lot and they were always a priority as a Sports person, I found the spirit that every sports person in the world wants to live. I personally had the chance to live 3 of them and had the honor to be the flag bearer for my country."

Nadal is a two-time Wimbledon champion and took gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Rafael Nadal will not compete at Wimbledon or the Olympic Games as he bids to prolong his prolific career.

The 20-time grand slam champion was knocked out of the French Open at the semi-final stage by eventual winner Novak Djokovic.

And, with just a two-week gap to the grass-court slam in London, the 35-year-old has opted against taking part at the All England Club or the Games in Tokyo.

"Hi all, I have decided not to participate at this year's Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo," the Spaniard tweeted.

"It's never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss it with my team I understand that it is the right decision.

"The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at he maximum level of competition."

Novak Djokovic is chasing more records following his history-making triumph after the world number one's French Open crown brought him closer to rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the race for tennis supremacy.

Djokovic became the first man in the Open Era to claim two or more titles at each of the four grand slams thanks to Sunday's stunning 6-7 (6-8) 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Serbian star Djokovic was two sets down on Court Philippe Chatrier, where he also became the first player in the Open Era to win a slam from two sets behind for his 19th major crown.

"I am thrilled and I'm very proud of this achievement," Djokovic – who upstaged clay specialist and defending champion Nadal in the semi-finals – told reporters afterwards. "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. Probably ranks at the top three all-time achievements and experiences that I had in my professional tennis career. Going through a 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, who is playing in his first grand slam finals.

"It's always, of course, a bit tricky because you're playing for your trophy, for your first grand slam trophy, but you don't have much to lose. So I knew that he's going to probably start off very well, which was the case. It was a very close first set. Kind of gone a different way, but he was just the better player in those clutch moments. Second set I dropped physically and mentally I think a little bit. I just got fatigued a bit, just allowed him to kind of dominate the second set pretty much.

"Then went out from the court, as was the case against [Lorenzo] Musetti in the fourth round when I was two sets down, and came back as a different player. Just refreshed, managed to make a break, early break in the third. After that, I felt like I got into his head. I feel like I started swinging through the ball better. The momentum was on my side, it shifted. There was no looking back from that moment."

Djokovic is now just one trophy shy of equalling the record for most grand slam singles titles on the men's tour, currently shared by Nadal and Federer.

The 34-year-old insisted he will continue to chase records, with the ageing Nadal and Federer firmly in his sight.

"I never thought it was a mission impossible to reach the grand slams of these guys," Djokovic said. "I'm not there, but it's one less. But they are still playing. Obviously, they're playing great, especially Rafa with his level. We all have still opportunities at Wimbledon, all the other slams.

"You have four slams a year, so we're all competing for this amazing achievement and amazing trophies. I'll keep on going. I'll keep on chasing. At the same time, I'll keep on paving my own path, which is my own authentic path. We all three of us have our own journeys, and that's it."

Among those records is the golden grand slam – winning all four calendar majors as well as gold at the Olympic Games – with Wimbledon, the rescheduled Tokyo Games and US Open still to come in 2021 following his Australian Open success.

"Everything is possible. 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," added Djokovic. "I've achieved some things that a lot of people thought it would be not possible for me to achieve. Everything is possible, and I did put myself in a good position to go for the golden slam.

"But, I was in this position in 2016 as well. It ended up in a third-round loss in Wimbledon. This year we have only two weeks between the first round of Wimbledon and the finals here, which is not ideal because you go from really two completely different surfaces, trying to make that transition as smooth as possible, as quickly and efficiently as possible. So obviously I will enjoy this win and then think about Wimbledon in a few days' time.

"I don't have an issue to say that I'm going for the title in Wimbledon. Of course, I am. I was really happy to know that we are going to play Wimbledon this year, considering we haven't played it last year. I've had great success in the last couple of Wimbledon seasons that were played. I won in '18 and '19 there. Hopefully, I can keep that run going. I like the grass. Over the years I think I improved on grass, I adjusted my game. Hopefully, I can use this confidence that I have right now into Wimbledon, as well. Then let's take it from there."

Stefanos Tsitsipas "could easily have cried" after seeing his French Open dream crushed by Novak Djokovic but insists there is "no reason" he cannot be a future champion.

In his first grand slam final, the 22-year-old looked to be cantering to victory when he moved two sets up against the world number one.

However, much as he did in his fourth-round win over Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic left the court before the start of the third set and returned a different competitor, going on to win 6-7 (6-8) 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 after more than four hours on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Tsitsipas had little answer to the resurgent Djokovic, who became the first male player in the Open era to win every grand slam at least twice as he moved onto 19 in his career, one behind record-holders Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Tsitsipas struggled to answer why his game began to let him down in the final three sets as he cut a disconsolate figure when speaking to the media afterwards.

"I felt like my rhythm was off [after the second set]," he said. "I really don't know why. It was very strange considering that I started finding my rhythm, finding my shots, my movement on the court was perfect, and suddenly just felt cold and out of it.

"It was difficult to readjust. I felt like I kind of lost my game a little bit. 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.

"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. Two sets doesn't really mean anything. It's still one away [from] winning the entire match."

Tsitsipas admitted Djokovic seemed rejuvenated as the third set got underway, saying: "He left the court after two sets to love down, I don't know what happened there, but he came back to me like a different player suddenly.

"I don't know. I have no idea. He played really well. He gave me no space. [I] felt physically, anticipation maybe, just movement on the court, everything felt much more fresh and much better than before. I kind of felt like he could read my game a bit better suddenly. Good for him. He did well to get there."

Tsitsipas, who will move to number four in the world after reaching the final, is one of the prime contenders to lead the way when the so-called 'big three' finally call time on their careers.

The Greek beat Roger Federer at the 2019 Australian Open and Rafael Nadal in Melbourne this year, while he has twice beaten Djokovic at Masters 1000 events.

"I believe, yes, I'm able to play for titles like this," he added. "Despite my loss today, I have faith in my game. I very much believe I can get to that point very soon.

"I was close today. Every opponent is difficult. There's a small difference between the player I played today and the ones from before.

"But I think with the same attitude and the same... if I don't downgrade myself, I see no reason for me not to be holding that trophy one day.

"I played two good sets. I wouldn't call them incredible. I just played really well. It wasn't enough. It wasn't enough. That's a grand slam for you. It's the way it is.

"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."

Novak Djokovic backed Stefanos Tsitsipas to bounce back from the French Open final defeat that left the Greek star shell-shocked.

As Djokovic inked more achievements into the tennis record books, he did so at the expense of a player who surely thought his grand slam moment had come when he led the world number one by two sets.

Just as the crowd inside Court Philippe Chatrier prepared for a new champion to be crowned, Djokovic dug in, scrambling, scurrying and showing incredible levels of energy to snatch a 6-7 (6-8) 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory from what was almost a lost cause.

Having come through an exhausting four-hour battle with Rafael Nadal, the greatest of all Roland Garros champions, on Friday, it was mesmerising to watch Djokovic pick apart another world-class opponent in a marathon contest.

This was a match featuring the third largest age gap between French Open men's singles finalists in the Open Era, with Djokovic, at 34, showing a freshness that 22-year-old Tsitsipas could only admire in the closing stages. It marked the first time in Djokovic's great career that he has won a slam final from a two-set deficit.

Tsitsipas will not forget his first slam final in a hurry, but he would surely want to.

"I would like to say a few words to Stefanos," Djokovic said in an on-court interview. "I can relate to what he's going through. I understand how difficult that is, losing in the final of a grand slam.

"These are the kind of matches, the kind of occasions, you learn from the most, I think.

"Knowing him and his team, he's going to come out much stronger from this match and I definitely believe he's going to win many grand slams in the future. So respect to you and your team."

Djokovic became the first man in the Open Era to rack up two or more titles at each of the four grand slams, and he has 19 such victories altogether now, just one behind the all-time record that is shared by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

"It's truly a dream to be here and play a great match for one of the great trophies in our sport," Djokovic said.

"This is a tournament that gives me a lot of inspiration. I've needed the inspiration. I'm not as young as Stefanos. I have to search every day for new inspiration.

"It's sure that my great motivations are my children and my wife and all my team, who give me so much support and love. Without them it wouldn't be possible for me to be here. I'm proud and happy."

The body language of Tsitsipas showed he was obviously crestfallen and suffering, a post-match speech just a reminder of the pain he had been subjected to at the hands of the world number one.

"It was a big fight out there. I tried my best, I tried as much as I could but Novak played better," Tsitsipas said.

"It was my first time being here in the finals. I had a good run and I'm happy with myself, but let's give it to Novak. He's showed us in the last couple of years what a great champion he is, how consistent he has been.

"I would say I'm inspired by the things he has achieved so far and I hope one day I can maybe do half of what he has done so well."

From chump to champ, bonehead to figurehead. What a difference a year makes.

On this weekend in 2020, Novak Djokovic was partying like it was, well, 2019, after the first leg of the Adria Tour, limbo-dancing in a Belgrade cabaret club, mask-free, carefree, some might say cluelessly.

Within days, he had tested positive for COVID-19, as had Djokovic's wife Jelena, along with Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Goran Ivanisevic. The tournament that Djokovic had organised was in disarray and plans to take it to five Balkan cities were abandoned when the second event in Zadar was called off before its final.

Nick Kyrgios, incredulous at home in Australia, called it a "boneheaded" decision to play the events, and Djokovic made a grovelling apology, saying he was "so deeply sorry" for the harm that had been caused.

The main tennis tours had ground to a necessary halt, but Djokovic could not resist moving, cavorting.

He might feel like hitting up a Parisian nightclub after Sunday's breathtaking comeback against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open final, the first time he has come from two sets down to win a grand slam final, but even if they were open, Djokovic has probably learnt his lesson. He taught Tsitsipas a thing or two in this Roland Garros epic, too, primarily this: however much a grand slam title match feels in your control, these major finals are not like any you have played before.

So now Djokovic has 19 major titles, one behind all-time leaders Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal heading into Wimbledon in two weeks' time. He is the first man in the Open Era to win two or more titles at each of the four grand slams.

When Tsitsipas followed a thrilling opening set here by breezing through the second against the world number one, establishing a two-set cushion, his maiden slam final was going as well as he could possibly have hoped. His serve was potent, his biggest shots were landing in, and he had the measure of Djokovic's delivery: the Serbian won just 35 per cent of points on his second serve over those opening two sets.

Nine winners to just two unforced errors from Tsitsipas in that second set showed who was in charge. Djokovic had taken an early fall in the match: was that a factor?

Yet in the fourth game of the third set, Djokovic landed a punch so loaded that it caused Tsitsipas to wobble for the next hour, saving three game points on the Greek's serve before snatching the break at his own fourth opportunity.

The 11-minute game evoked memories of how Djokovic took down Nadal in their magnificent semi-final, Tsitsipas flinging a despairing backhand just wide to slide 3-1 behind, his resistance broken, his momentum gone.

Djokovic has suffered in the past following marathon grand slam semi-finals, including in Paris last October when he battled past Tsitsipas in five and then won just seven games against Nadal.

Friday's four hours and 11 minutes of hard battle against Nadal was as draining as such matches come, so from where had Djokovic found this renewed energy? Tsitsipas, seeing the title slip away, needed a big sip from whatever well from which the Serbian was drinking.

An astonishing angled drop shot from Djokovic in the third game of the decider showed his scrambling, sprinting energy was only heightening in its intensity, and he backed up that effort with a break moments later.

Tsitsipas had largely rediscovered his game, but the prospect of a pair of first-time singles champions at Roland Garros, for the first time since the Gaston Gaudio-Anastasia Myskina double in 2004, was ebbing away. It was soon all over.

After the Adria Tour howler and his US Open disqualification clanger, Djokovic began his 2021 season on a positive note with a ninth Australian Open title. Now he has a second French Open, and we can seriously start to think about a calendar year sweep of the grand slams. He has won seven of his majors since turning 30, the most by anyone in the Open Era, and it feels safe to say there are more to come.

Twelve months ago, it was a case of 'how low can you go?' as Djokovic dipped under that limbo pole.

Suddenly we can start to ask: are there no limits to the heights this remarkable man might scale?

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.

Novak Djokovic described beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open as the tennis equivalent of scaling Mount Everest – and it will be how he copes with the descent that dictates his prospects in Sunday's final.

Researchers have pointed to that being the real danger on Everest expeditions, and there are perils involved in a tennis comedown too, although Djokovic was optimistic he would be ready for Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Roland Garros title match.

"I'm not the freshest guy right now obviously," Djokovic said after his four hours and 11 minutes epic semi-final against Nadal.

"The good thing is that I have a day and a half to rejuvenate and try to regroup, think about my next opponent."

The world number one intended to spend a large part of Saturday resting up before, as he put it, "hopefully being able to be fit to compete in the best-of-five with a guy who is in a great shape".

"It's not the first time that I've played an epic semi-final in a grand slam and then I've had to come back in less than 48 hours and play finals," Djokovic said.

"My recovery abilities are pretty good, I must say, throughout my career. Obviously my physiotherapist will try to do everything possible so I can be fresh.

"Because I played enough tennis, I don't need to train too much. It's really now just about taking things slowly until the day of the finals. I know what I need to do.

"Obviously Tsitsipas, first time in the finals of a grand slam, if I'm not mistaken. For him it's a great achievement, but I'm sure he doesn't want to stop there.

"He's in great form. I think he leads the rankings, race rankings, this year. He's had his best results overall. I think he matured as a player a lot.

"Clay is arguably his best surface. We played an epic five-setter last year in the semis here. I know it's going to be another tough one. I'm hoping I can recharge my batteries as much as I can because I'm going to need some power and energy for that one."

As much as Djokovic might recoil at the possibility of a brutal semi-final taking a heavy toll, there is evidence, contrary to his assessment, that he can struggle to raise his game for a grand slam title match after expending great energy in getting there.

It took him three hours and 54 minutes to score a five-set win over Tsitsipas in last year's Roland Garros semi-finals, and that was followed by a drubbing at Nadal's hands in the final. Djokovic won just seven games.

Before Friday's majestic clash with Nadal, the last time Djokovic had played a four-hour-plus semi-final at the French Open was in 2015 when he fended off Andy Murray in a gruelling five-setter. He went on to lose the final against world number nine Stan Wawrinka.

Djokovic also won a four-hour semi-final battle with Wawrinka at the 2013 US Open before losing to Nadal in the final, and earlier that year he fought off Juan Martin del Potro in a magnificent Wimbledon semi-final that lasted four hours and 43 minutes before being beaten by Murray in the title match.

If Djokovic is searching for recent evidence of his ability to follow a marathon semi-final with a match-winning turn in the title match, he would have to go back to Wimbledon in 2018, and even then there were circumstances that to some extent favoured the Serbian.

It took five hours and 15 minutes for Djokovic to overhaul Nadal in their All England Club semi-final which spanned two days, and he went on to demolish South African Kevin Anderson in the final.

However, that was hardly surprising given Anderson needed six hours and 24 minutes on the Friday to get past John Isner in his own semi-final – the longest semi-final in Wimbledon history.

That was after Anderson beat Roger Federer 13-11 in the deciding set of a marathon quarter-final, the upshot being that even if Djokovic was weary for the final after beating Nadal, he was facing a man who was practically out on his feet.

All this being said, Djokovic begins the final as favourite as he seeks a second French Open title in his sixth final appearance, and a 19th grand slam title overall.

Should he win, it would make him just the third man in history to win all four grand slam titles at least twice, after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver, and the first man to achieve that feat in the Open Era.

Amid all the talk of the 34-year-old Djokovic needing to physically recover, Tsitsipas' five-set semi-final exertions against Alexander Zverev are rather being overlooked.

That match clocked in at three hours and 37 minutes and will have been mentally and physically sapping for the 22-year-old Greek player, who, as Djokovic accurately pointed out, does lead the ATP Race to Turin standings, the table of 2021 form that decides the line-up for the ATP Finals in November.

Tsitsipas fended off a Zverev comeback, as the German recovered from two sets behind to force a decider on Friday, with the world number five showing serious big-game mettle in turning the momentum back his way.

The man who grew up near Athens, dreaming of playing on Court Philippe Chatrier, took a set off Djokovic when they met on clay in the Rome quarter-finals last month.

Now he has a first grand slam title in his sights, and looks as well equipped as any of the rising generation of young players to carry off multiple majors over the coming years.

"I'm proud of myself. I actually love what I'm doing," Tsitsipas said. "I love that I get to play in this stadium. I'm grateful for every single match that I get to play.

"I'm obviously just blessed to have the opportunity to play against the best and test myself, something that I've always dreamed and wished to happen one day. I'm able to be here and really going for it. I love that."

But as well as soaking in the experience, Tsitsipas wants to show he can be a champion at the highest level.

"It's time for me to go for my chances," he said. "I'm looking forward to that challenge. I'm looking forward to bringing my game to kind of challenge myself to step it up."

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