Arms crossed and index finger to heaven, the illusionist of a thousand and one lives catches the reward that rounds off a perfect plan. Although Stefanos Tsitsipas has stirred like a mongoose, Novak Djokovic closes with a volley, celebrates the comeback (6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 and 6-4) and savors his second trophy in Paris, where the historical debate between him, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – 55 of the last 64 greats among the three – lives an episode that turns everything upside down. The 34-year-old Serbian raises his second major of the season and already collects 19, so that he is one step behind the Swiss and the Spanish, with the male dispute more compressed than ever.
4h 11m have elapsed in the final, the fourth longest in the Bois de Boulogne, which did not witness one to five sets since 2004; then, Gastón Gaudio beat Guillermo Coria. He is flanked by Björn Borg and Jim Courier, part in French and the books indicate him as the first tennis player in the Open Era (since 1968) who manages to reunite the big four at least twice; Australians Rod Laver and Roy Emerson shine before professionalism, but Djokovic, 84 titles, flies into a different dimension. He embraces the Musketeers’ Cup with care as Tsitsipas, brave in battle and sunk in parliament, recognizes him and says that he will return. It will.
Despite the logical tingling produced by stepping on the final of a big, double fault as a starting point, the Greek (22 years old) holds the type perfectly throughout the first set. Unlike most of his peers of generation and new horizons of youth, he respects, but is not afraid. You can’t, you shouldn’t. It is the only way. He is not intimidated by the extremely long shadow of the three giants, whom he has knocked down – on more than one occasion all of them – offering serious indications that one day or another he may strike the big blow.
He flipped Nadal (35) this year in Melbourne, going back two sets, and both Federer (39) – inclined two years ago in Australia and in the semifinals of a Masters – and Djokovic (34) – Shanghai and Canada, no lesser places- they know perfectly well their conditions. Tsitsipas is not wrinkled. Courage ahead.
Jump on the track knowing that you are entering a labyrinth, and that finding the exit key depends exclusively on keeping a cool head and knowing how to grit your teeth when the fire tightens. Djokovic walks intimidating, denying any gap to the rest; He does not give him a single point until the eighth duty shift, when the Serb discovers that the afternoon is not going to be particularly pleasant. The sun falls hard on the center, a little wind blows that destabilizes the trajectory of the ball and when trying to catch a left, Nole falls flat on his face against the sand.
The number one is not comfortable, who in front finds a fronton that repels and spits the ball with a lot of determination. Red light: at 5-4 and 30-40 he is forced to lift a set ball. And even so, by crushing stone, he finds a way to extract oil, because precipitation can affect the Athenian and with a long right he enables the first break; however, he receives a withering response. 6-6. Tsitsipas backhand, not a bad gesture or a single complaint, resists and leads to the tie-breaker, in which the boy, a delicious one-handed reverse, throws a big blow job.
Although Djokovic puts on the escapist suit and removes the candy from his mouth, cutting him a 4-0 start and the subsequent 5-2, two points from the reward, he persists and leads the Balkan with everything: after denying him the opportunity to take the set, with 5-6 adverse, he unleashes three consecutive lashes and opens the first question: reality or mirage? Does the Greek’s affront have a solid foundation? So it shows. Even rockier and with the same decision, he overflows in the second set, closing the first two sets with only 12 errors and posing another Everest for Nole, who came from climb Nadal himself in his fortress in the Chatrier.
What happens to the one in Belgrade? Is it or is it not? Was Friday night completely emptied, a hypothesis that is not ruled out given the toll that usually accompanies the task of beating the Spaniard?
Two sets down, his countrymen push him: “Idemo, idemo, idemo!”. And the tiger wakes up because Djokovic, whatever it seems, is always there, never gives up. He should never be considered dead, no matter how absent he may seem or how disheveled he may be. The eternal trompe l’oeil. You know them all, Nole. A “come on, Rafa!” Is heard from the stands. that it has a counterproductive effect to the one intended by the author of the scream; there is no better incentive for the Serb than to remind him where he is going, what he is after. Then, his game multiplies and he recovers the color, all its expression. But in a controlled way.
No fuss or signs of overexcitement, not outward. He balls in a robotic way, dictates, opens with the backhand and unfolds his cards. Djokovic comes, goes into a trance. He harasses and harasses in the fourth game of the third quarter, in which Tsitsipas endures four shoves, not the fifth. And the break, for 3-1, it has a destabilizing, cathartic effect for the Balkan. From there, he sails at will and the Greek begins to feel too heavy for the duel and his lower back aches, a strenuous demand to follow that military rhythm, that permanent anxiety. It is the mark of the old guard: competing to the limit, from the first ball to the last ball. Without truce.
The mental exercise for the Greek is tremendous. Two equal sets already, Djokovic gnaws at him as if he were an army of termites and the stands are pronounced trying to revive him, and he resists the attacks until his armor (break for 2-1) ends up jumping through the air. The number one, a Machiavelli of the racket, has guided the game exactly where he was interested, to that false illusion that has brought him so many successes. The challenger fights to the end with dignity and a hard head, but there is no going back: for the second time, five years later, Djokovic celebrates in Paris, completing a masterful move and applying another sharp turn to the story. They are already 19 for him.