Djokovic, like his career-long reference points Nadal and Roger Federer, has underscored his passion with long-running excellence and by persistently ignoring the hints that his peak years is likely to be behind him.
For Djokovic, this has been a season and a challenge like no other: His decision to stay unvaccinated against the coronavirus led to a standoff with Australian authorities that ended along with his deportation on the eve of this yr’s Australian Open, and it kept him out of the Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami Gardens, Fla., in March.
But with the health protocols now relaxed in Europe, Djokovic returned to regular motion on clay last month. Though he struggled in his initial matches along with his timing and his endurance, he has slowly but convincingly resumed hitting his targets, and he has gathered momentum just in time for Roland Garros.
“I all the time try to make use of these sorts of situations and adversity in my favor to fuel me for the subsequent challenge,” he said of Australia. “As much as I’ve felt pressure in my life and my profession, that was something really on a complete different level. But I feel it’s already behind me. I feel great on the court. Mentally as well, I’m fresh. I’m sharp.”
Against Tsitsipas, the hirsute Greek star who pushed Djokovic to 5 sets before losing last yr’s French Open final, Djokovic controlled many of the baseline rallies with as much patience as panache. When Tsitsipas didn’t serve out the second set, Djokovic proved the more reliable force within the tiebreaker, perfectly content, it seemed, to attend for Tsitsipas to crack.
“To some extent, it’s a relief because after the whole lot that happened in the beginning of the yr, it was vital for me to win an enormous title,” Djokovic said.