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French Open: Djokovic rallies past Tsitsipas for 19th title

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the men's singles final at the 2021 French Open tennis tournament Sunday at Roland Garros in Paris. Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE/
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the men's singles final at the 2021 French Open tennis tournament Sunday at Roland Garros in Paris. Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE/

June 13 (UPI) -- Serbian Novak Djokovic smashed an overhead return onto the clay court to win match point in a marathon French Open men's final against Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas to capture his 19th career major title Sunday in Paris.

Djokovic used his expert return game and strong poise to rally from a two-set deficit for the 6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win. He fired five aces, 56 winners and converted five of 16 break point opportunities in the four-hour, 11-minute thriller at Court Philippe-Chatrier.

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Djokovic, 34, played a total of nearly eight and a half hours of tennis in his last two matches. He needed four hours and 11 minutes to upset defending champion Rafael Nadal on Friday in Paris.

"It was not easy for me, both physically and mentally," Djokovic told reporters.

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Djokovic claimed a $1.7 million prize for winning his second Grand Slam of the season. The world's top player is now just one major title behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in the history of the men's singles circuit.

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The Serbian denied Tsitsipas of becoming Greece's first major tennis champion. Tsitsipas totaled 14 aces, 61 winners and converted three of eight break points in the loss.

Tsitsipas and Djokovic exchanged game victories until Tsitsipas won a first set tiebreaker. Tsitsipas then broke Djokovic's serve twice and won the final three games of the second set to go up 2-0.

Djokovic snatched momentum early in the third set. He jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the set, but dropped the sixth game. He bounced back to win two of the final three games to win the set.

Djokovic carried his momentum into the fourth set. He used pinpoint control on his powerful forehand returns to win the first four games of the set. He broke Tsitsipas twice and closed out the set with another return winner, which tied the match 2-2.

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Tsitsipas halted Djokovic's momentum with a win in the first game of the fifth set. Djokovic responded with a second game victory. He then broke Tsitsipas' serve for a win in the third game and fired an ace to win the fourth game.

Tsitsipas held his serve in the fifth game to make the score 3-2 in the set. Djokovic and Tsitsipas exchanged wins in the next two games, but Djokovic moved to within a game of match point when he went up 5-3 in the set.

Tsitsipas climbed back into the match with a victory in game nine, but Djokovic's sharp returns were too much to overcome.

"It is a difficult journey and it takes a lot of work every single day," Tsitsipas told NBC. "I hope to be back next year and put on a good show again."

Djokovic will attempt to win his third Grand Slam title of the season at Wimbledon 2021. The grass-court tournament is from June 28 to July 11 at the All-England Club in London.

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