French Open: Djokovic sympathises after inflicting brutal blow on Tsitsipas

By Sports Desk June 13, 2021

Novak Djokovic backed Stefanos Tsitsipas to bounce back from the French Open final defeat that left the Greek star shell-shocked.

As Djokovic inked more achievements into the tennis record books, he did so at the expense of a player who surely thought his grand slam moment had come when he led the world number one by two sets.

Just as the crowd inside Court Philippe Chatrier prepared for a new champion to be crowned, Djokovic dug in, scrambling, scurrying and showing incredible levels of energy to snatch a 6-7 (6-8) 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory from what was almost a lost cause.

Having come through an exhausting four-hour battle with Rafael Nadal, the greatest of all Roland Garros champions, on Friday, it was mesmerising to watch Djokovic pick apart another world-class opponent in a marathon contest.

This was a match featuring the third largest age gap between French Open men's singles finalists in the Open Era, with Djokovic, at 34, showing a freshness that 22-year-old Tsitsipas could only admire in the closing stages. It marked the first time in Djokovic's great career that he has won a slam final from a two-set deficit.

Tsitsipas will not forget his first slam final in a hurry, but he would surely want to.

"I would like to say a few words to Stefanos," Djokovic said in an on-court interview. "I can relate to what he's going through. I understand how difficult that is, losing in the final of a grand slam.

"These are the kind of matches, the kind of occasions, you learn from the most, I think.

"Knowing him and his team, he's going to come out much stronger from this match and I definitely believe he's going to win many grand slams in the future. So respect to you and your team."

Djokovic became the first man in the Open Era to rack up two or more titles at each of the four grand slams, and he has 19 such victories altogether now, just one behind the all-time record that is shared by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

"It's truly a dream to be here and play a great match for one of the great trophies in our sport," Djokovic said.

"This is a tournament that gives me a lot of inspiration. I've needed the inspiration. I'm not as young as Stefanos. I have to search every day for new inspiration.

"It's sure that my great motivations are my children and my wife and all my team, who give me so much support and love. Without them it wouldn't be possible for me to be here. I'm proud and happy."

The body language of Tsitsipas showed he was obviously crestfallen and suffering, a post-match speech just a reminder of the pain he had been subjected to at the hands of the world number one.

"It was a big fight out there. I tried my best, I tried as much as I could but Novak played better," Tsitsipas said.

"It was my first time being here in the finals. I had a good run and I'm happy with myself, but let's give it to Novak. He's showed us in the last couple of years what a great champion he is, how consistent he has been.

"I would say I'm inspired by the things he has achieved so far and I hope one day I can maybe do half of what he has done so well."

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  • Australian Open: 'I was out of my mind' – Medvedev explains extraordinary umpire rant Australian Open: 'I was out of my mind' – Medvedev explains extraordinary umpire rant

    Daniil Medvedev conceded he was out of his mind when he embarked on an extraordinary rant at the chair umpire during his Australian Open win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.

    The Russian, who came from two sets down to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last round, roared into a second consecutive Melbourne final as he downed Tsitsipas in a fiery last-four showdown.

    Medvedev ultimately triumphed 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4 6-1 to set up a final with Rafael Nadal but it was a contest in which tempers frayed, mostly on US Open champion's side of the net.

    Second seed Medvedev felt Tsitsipas' father was coaching from the sidelines and received a warning for his persistent complaining.

    He stopped short of accusing Tsitsipas of cheating but explained his mindset at length in the post-match news conference.

    Medvedev said: "Cheating, not at all. First of all I got broken - I got a little bit mad. I thought the referee could do a little bit better with the crowd, just to say, 'Quiet please', or something like this. 

    "Didn't see him doing that often and I made a terrible double fault, got a code when I was just showing everybody that I'm cramping.

    "I cannot toss the ball with my left hand because everybody's screaming, so my serve was terrible.

    "To be honest, before every return his father was talking Greek. I don't know, maybe he's saying, 'Come on, come on', there is no problem.

    "But then the referee, I asked him if he can talk. He said he can talk but he can't coach. Then I said, 'Do you speak Greek?' 

    "If not, the guy is talking, talking, talking. I don't know what he says, but if it's a coach - I don't consider coaching as cheating but it should be a code violation. Then second one would be a bit tricky."

    Medvedev branded the umpire "a small cat" in his astonishing on-court outburst.

    He added: "You guys are laughing, so I think we can say it was funny, but I was definitely out of my mind. I was not controlling myself anymore about anything.

    "That's actually why I'm really happy to win. Many matches like this I would go on to do mistakes - you lose your concentration with things in the heat of the moment. I'm so happy that I managed to catch it really fast."

    Medvedev often feels regret after his outbursts, but concedes they sometimes give him the fuel to win.

    "I regret it all the time, because I don't think it's nice." he said. "I know that every referee is trying to do their best.

    "In tennis we don't fight with the fists but tennis is a fight. It's a one-on-one against another player. 

    "So I'm actually really respectful to players who never, almost never show their emotions because it's tough, I can get really emotional. 

    "I have been working on it. So many matches I handle it. If we look back at myself five years ago when I started playing, just started playing, there was less attention on me, but I was just insanely crazy.

    "I'm working on it. Helps me to win matches, I know. So I do regret it 100 per cent, but again, in the heat of the moment, I just lost it."

    Tsitsipas suggested the Russian was lacking in maturity, saying about the rant: "Well, it's for sure funny!

    "It's funny. I don't pay attention to the stuff. I know players like to do this stuff to throw you off mentally. Could be maybe a tactic? It is all right, he is not the most mature person anyways."

    Of the allegation he received coaching, Tsitsipas replied: "I wasn't - you saw me the other day, losing the score twice in two of my matches. I cannot hear anything when I'm playing. 

    "It's impossible. Having the crowd being so loud in every single point, you have to have super hearing to be able to hear what your coach says.

    "I'm used to it. They've been targeting me already a long time. The umpires are always paying attention to my box, never paying attention to the opponent's box. 

    "Last thing I want is someone giving me tips and giving me advice on what I should do. I'm not the kind of person that would try and listen when out there competing, playing. In practice, maybe."

    But Medvedev was reluctant to get into a war of words with Tsitsipas.

    He said: "No, I don't want to get too much into this, because again, it was nothing against Stefanos, nothing during this match and I feel like I didn't talk about him. 

    "I just talked about the rule, because again, I don't know what his father is saying. Maybe he's just saying, 'Let's go next point'. It's completely allowed. 

    "I don't know Greek. Same about the umpire. He should just, I don't know, talk to Stefanos first maybe, [tell him to] say something to your father. 

    "If my coach would be talking in French to me before every point, even I would say, 'Stop it. It's not allowed'. So it was only about this."

    Tsitsipas revealed he had regularly discussed the topic with his father and ultimately believes coaching should be legalised.

    He added: "My father, look, he's a person that when he gets into something when there is a lot of action, his medicine is to talk, and you can't stop it. It's something that he does from nature.

    "I've tried, spent countless hours trying to figure it out with him, but it's part of him. 

    "Last year I went out publicly on one of my social media platforms and said that I think coaching should be allowed, simply because coaches do it anyways. 

    "Most of them get away with it, and they do it pretty smartly, I can tell you."

  • Australian Open: As Nadal bids to turn 21, Medvedev plots to stop 'perfect guy' taking grand slam lead Australian Open: As Nadal bids to turn 21, Medvedev plots to stop 'perfect guy' taking grand slam lead

    Daniil Medvedev described the three-man battle for grand slam history as "their thing, not mine" as he set his sights on denying Rafael Nadal a 21st major in Sunday's Australian Open final.

    Russian Medvedev is the 6ft 6in obstacle blocking the route to history once again, just as he was at the US Open last September when he prevented Novak Djokovic becoming the first man to 21 and crushed the Serbian's hope of a first calendar sweep of the men's singles slams since Rod Laver's 1969 feat.

    At the age of 25, Medvedev is 10 years Nadal's junior, and he has an awful long way to go before he is revered to the same degree as the 'Big Three' of Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer.

    But Medvedev is asserting himself as the leader of the pack that will drive the men's game forward over the next decade, and he will be fancied by many to topple Nadal this weekend in Melbourne.

    This will be his fourth slam final, after losing a marathon five-set tussle against Nadal at the 2019 US Open, being beaten ruthlessly by Djokovic in the Australian Open last year, and then storming to glory in New York.

    Asked about the fact he has always faced elite opposition in his finals, Medvedev said: "They are really strong, huh? It's really tough to get into the final, and I always have them there waiting for me.

    "But it's fun. When I was like eight, 10 years old I was playing against the wall and I was imagining that it's Rafa on the other side, or Roger. Novak was still not yet there, I think.

    "Now I have the chance to play him [in a major final] for a second time. The first one was a close one, an epic one. I need to show my best, because that's what I took from the three finals that I had before, that you have to do better than 100 per cent in order to win. That's what I managed to do in the US Open. That's what I'm going to try to do on Sunday."

    Medvedev, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in four sets in their semi-final on Friday, says Nadal's pursuit of the all-time men's grand slam record would not impact upon his own game.

    "I'll be honest, on me it doesn't [have an effect]," Medvedev said. "It's not me going for the 21st, not me trying to break these records.

    "I'm going for my second one. I'm still far from all these things. I'm just trying to focus on myself, doing my job.

    "I'm not lying, I know what's happening, I know what Rafa is going for, I knew what Novak was going for. But it's kind of their thing, not mine. I'm just there to try to win the final."

    It is clear Medvedev, a fiery character, has enormous respect for Nadal's ability to hold back from letting his own feisty emotions boil over.

    "We know what Rafa's mentality in life is like. I don't know if I should call it this way, but he's like a perfect guy," Medvedev told a news conference.

    World number two Medvedev will be attempting to become the first man in the Open Era to follow his maiden grand slam singles title with another at the next major. He said it would be a "great battle" against Nadal, and Medvedev, who predicted Djokovic would be keeping a close eye on the match, would be happy to disrupt the fairy tale narrative.

    The ever-popular Nadal is coming back from a foot injury and has surpassed most expectations by sweeping through the draw, chasing his second Australian Open title but first since 2009, when he beat Federer.

    "They are the three biggest players in the world: Novak, Rafa, Roger," Medvedev said. "All have done amazing, amazing records.

    "Some of them have more records in total. They have all the same slams. Somebody has more Davis Cup titles, somebody has more Roland Garros, Australian Open, whatever.

    "Rafa, especially what he's done at Roland Garros [winning 13 French Open titles], I really doubt somebody could ever beat this. But on the other ones, he's really strong also. I think it's going to be a debate for 20 years to come, no matter even who has the most slams, who of them was better. I want to say, they're all amazing."

  • Australian Open: 'Novak will be watching' - Medvedev blocks path to record 21st slam for Nadal Australian Open: 'Novak will be watching' - Medvedev blocks path to record 21st slam for Nadal

    Daniil Medvedev is convinced Novak Djokovic will be glued to Sunday's Australian Open final, as the men's grand slam record goes on the line once more.

    It was Medvedev who denied Djokovic a 21st singles major in the US Open final in September, inflicting a straight-sets defeat on the Serbian who was chasing a sweep of the 2021 grand slams.

    Now Medvedev stands in the way of another of the 'Big Three', with Rafael Nadal also chasing a 21st slam and the outright lead on the all-time list.

    Djokovic, Nadal and Federer each have 20 grand slam singles titles, and it remains to be seen whether any of that trio triumph again on the big stage, with Medvedev confirming himself as a leader of the upcoming generation.

    The deportation of Djokovic from Australia before this tournament caused a major stir, denying the nine-time champion at Melbourne Park a run at history.

    And all Djokovic can do is sit and watch from a distance, perhaps hoping for a Medvedev victory.

    "I guess last time Rafa was watching near the TV, I don't know who he was cheering for," Medvedev said, harking back to the US Open. "But I think Novak will be watching this one in two days also."

    The mention of Djokovic in Medvedev's on-court interview led to rumblings in the crowd, with many Australians having been glad to see him removed from the country when his visa was revoked.

    When Djokovic was again mentioned in a follow-up interview with Eurosport, Medvedev said: "I'm definitely not going to think about this before or during the match. After the match, depending on the result, I'm going to think about him a little bit and about Roger probably also."

    Medvedev's first taste of a grand slam final was against Nadal at the 2019 US Open, when the Russian lost a five-set thriller.

    "We've played a few matches since then, and I'm ready," Medvedev said. "I know Rafa is a very strong player and I will need to show my best to try to win this match."

    Medvedev, runner-up to Djokovic in Melbourne last year, aimed an outburst of anger towards umpire Jaume Campistol during the second set of his four-set victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday.

    He was furious at Tsitsipas seemingly being coached by the Greek star's father from the players' box, but Medvedev quickly realised his own behaviour was unhelpful.

    "I don't think emotions, bad emotions, help me too much and when I made it, many times I lose the match because of this," he said. "As soon as I did it, I was like, 'That was a big mistake'.

    "But I'm happy I managed to re-concentrate for the beginning of the third set."

    Having lost the second set, Medvedev snatched a crucial break at the end of the third, before cruising through the fourth to seal a 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory.

    Medvedev said he had felt "so dead" after beating Felix Auger-Aliassime in a near five-hour marathon in the quarter-finals, but his energy has been replenished.

    "I'm happy today was not five hours, so I could recover faster for the next one," he said.

    "I'm gonna play against one of the greatest, and what's funny is again I'm going to play someone going for the 21st slam."

    Before the tussle with Nadal, Melbourne will be gripped by Ash Barty's own pursuit of history, bidding to become the first Australian since Chris O'Neil at the 1978 tournament to land the women's singles title.

    Barty faces Danielle Collins on Saturday, and Medvedev, as is his wont, managed to rile some of Friday's crowd by being non-committal on whether he would watch Barty, whose title match begins at 19:30 local time (08:30 GMT).

    "I'm usually going to dinner at 8.15pm," Medvedev said.

    Urged by on-court interviewer Jim Courier to come up with a different answer, Medvedev added: "I'm going to watch it on my phone guys, I'm going to watch it."

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