Down two sets to love in the final of Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic walked out of Court Philippe-Chatrier for a brief break. Two and a half hours later, he was a champion in Paris after rallying back against fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas to lift his 19th Grand Slam trophy.
World No. 1 Djokovic was hitting differently, serving better and his body language was visibly much more positive throughout the final three sets of his 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory against the Greek player.
The key, Djokovic said afterward, was using that small pause to make a big shift in his internal dialogue and silence the ‘voice’ planting seeds of self-doubt as Tsitsipas fearlessly blasted winner after winner past him.
“To be honest, I was never really vocal when I speak to myself. I keep those internal conversations internally in my head,” Djokovic revealed in his post-match press conference. “There’s always two voices inside: one [is] telling you that you can’t do it, that it’s done, it’s finished. That voice was pretty strong after that second set.
“I felt that that was a time for me to actually vocalise the other voice and try to suppress the first one that was saying I can’t make it. I told myself I can do it [and] encouraged myself. I strongly started to repeat that inside of my mind, [and] tried to live it with my entire being.”
“Once I started playing in that third set, especially in the first few games, I saw where my game [was] at, it kind of supported that second voice that was more positive, more encouraging,” he added. “After that there was not much of a doubt for me.”
The result was a second Coupe des Mousquetaires for Djokovic – and another rewritten chapter in the tennis history books.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 13, 2021
After becoming only the sixth man in the Open Era to pull off a two-sets-to-love comeback in a Grand Slam final, Djokovic sealed a historic second Career Grand Slam. He stands alone as the only player to achieve this feat twice in the Open Era, and is only the third player in history to do so alongside Aussie legends Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.
“Of course, I am thrilled and I’m very proud of this achievement. [Being] 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,” Djokovic said. “I couldn’t be happier and more satisfied with this kind of scenario in the past 48 hours.
“[This] probably ranks at the top three all-time achievements and experiences that I [have] had in my professional tennis career: going through [a] four-and-a-half battle with Rafa [Nadal] on his court, then bouncing back after not practising 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.”
Djokovic, who won a record-extending ninth Australian Open title to start the season, is now one of the rare few players to achieve the Melbourne-Paris double in the same year, and the only one to do it twice in the Open Era (also 2016). He sits just one Grand Slam title behind Big Three rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have each won 20, for the most all-time men’s singles titles.
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) June 13, 2021
He will head to Wimbledon with a chance to make it three Grand Slams in a row, and potentially eye a ‘calendar-year Grand Slam’ by winning all four majors in the same year. His coach, Marian Vajda, believes it’s possible.
Djokovic, who seems to have rewritten the definition of ‘impossible’ along with the tennis history books, was not coy either when asked about his next big goal.
“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,” Djokovic said. “I’ve achieved some things that a lot of people thought it would be not possible for me to achieve.
“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’ve had a great success in the past couple of Wimbledon seasons that were played. I won in 2018 and 2019 there. Hopefully I can keep that run going.”
By now, anyone should know better than to count out Novak… even Novak.