Novak Djokovic entered the French Open final on Sunday with a record of 41-2, including five titles, in 2015, leaving many to wonder if there was anybody currently on the ATP Tour who could take down the Serb.
He cruised through the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, on the red clay of Roland Garros in the French Open quarterfinals, and followed that up by dropping his first sets of the tournament against world number three Andy Murray, only to dominate the fifth set and reach the final.
So when he took to the court to play the eighth-seeded Stan Wawrinka in the championship match, most believed that Djokovic would win the first French Open title of his career and complete the career Grand Slam that has eluded Djokovic.
But Wawrinka had other thoughts in mind this past Sunday, and even after dropping the first set, played much better tennis than the Djoker, beating him 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to capture the second Grand Slam title of his career.
The win was significant in more ways than one. While the triumph gave Wawrinka a crucial second major title following his Australian Open title run in 2014, it also dispelled the narrative that Novak Djokovic is unbeatable.
“It feels like I’m the only player who wants to win this trophy, and nobody wants to win it as much as I do,” Djokovic said, referring to his chase of the Roland Garros crown, the only major missing from his resume. “This is completely untrue.”
Djokovic plays every match with a target on his back, even when he plays some of the other top players in the world. He is the clear-cut world number one and his results over the last year indicate that, but the gap might not be as wide as previously thought.
Murray talked about this himself following his loss in Paris. He has lost just five matches overall this season, three of which have been to Djokovic.
“Looking at both of the matches we played [at the slams], in Australia it was 7-6, 6-7 and I was up a break in the third set. Obviously here [in Paris], I needed to start the match better, but overall, I don’t think I’m too far away,” the Scot said. “I think the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, I prefer the conditions there for my game. So hopefully I can close the gap a bit more.”
Wawrinka gave Djokovic fits with his one-handed backhand which he used to fire winner after winner in the final three sets of the final. If nothing else, his win showed that the world number one isn’t invincible, and can be beaten going forward.
As the Tour makes its transition from the clay courts to grass, it will be interesting to see the adjustments Djokovic makes to his game, and whether or not his loss in the French Open final open has displayed a weakness in his armor.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.