Djokovic doing the impossible


NOVAK Djokovic, the world No. 1 from Serbia, is now a Slam away from tying the all-time best of 20 shared by Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Switzerland’s Roger Federer.

Djokovic secured that after scoring a classic, come-from-behind victory over Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday to win the French Open.

In pocketing his second French Open title in six Finals appearances, Djokovic did it almost magically, if not in an improbable manner usually done only by escape artists.

Down two sets against Tsitsipas, a promising, 22-year-old with the smoothest one-handed backhand among the young crops today, Djokovic displayed his typical resilience and terrific tenacity to win, 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Before beating Tsisipas, the 6-foot-4 No. 5 from Athens making his first Slam finals after earlier beating No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia and No. 6 Alexander Zverev of Germany, Djokovic dispatched No. 3 Nadal in four, grueling sets lasting 4 hours and 11 minutes.

Against Nadal his archenemy, Djokovic lost the first set before unleashing another virtuoso performance, stashing away a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory in an energy-sapping semifinal that saw the third set last a record 92 minutes.

“You have to kind of climb Mount Everest to win against this guy [Nadal],” said Djokovic after the victory—only his second in nine matches against the Spaniard in the French Open’s red clay where Nadal, 35, had reigned supreme a record 13 times.

Djokovic was spared from possibly meeting the other high summit in tennis:  Federer.  Federer, 39, quit after winning his first match, saying he preferred to preserve his energy for Wimbledon set from June 28 to July 11.

But watch out.  Djokovic is also bent on winning Wimbledon to score a rare “three-peat” after his 2018 and 2019 victories.  Wimbledon was scrapped last year due to the pandemic.

Djokovic is on a roll as his recent French Open win made him the first to pocket the four Slams twice in 52 years after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.

Add his Australian Open trophy last January, and Djokovic has already captured half of this year’s four Grand Slams.

If he bags Wimbledon and the U S Open, Djokovic becomes only the second man to win all four Slams in the same year since Laver in 1969.

And look at this. If Djokovic does that, he could also complete a rare “Golden Slam” by pocketing the Tokyo Olympics gold in July.

“I think it’s possible,” said Marian Vajda, Djokovic’s coach. “He’s healthy.  He’s in great shape.”

At 34, and a Covid-19 survivor at that, Djokovic is at the peak of a career already worth more than an enshrinement for him in the pantheon of greatness.  Awesome.

THAT’S IT  Atlanta beat Philadelphia yesterday via a 103-100 cliffhanger for a 2-2 tie in their best-of-seven second round playoffs in the NBA Eastern Conference.  They play Game 5 on Thursday (17 June PHL time), while Milwaukee and Brooklyn break their 2-2 deadlock in Wednesday’s other Eastern semis pairing…the Los Angeles Clippers tied their Western semis with Utah at 2-2 following their 118-104 victory.

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