A five set grand slam final is the most thrilling spectacle in Tennis. And we have seen a few, right from the greatest Wimbledon final – Borg Vs McEnroe 1980 Wimbledon finals, the 1990 Becker Vs Edberg clash, the 1992 Agassi Vs Ivanisevic, Federer Vs Andy Roddick and Federer Vs Nadal (Wimbledon) and Federer Vs Nadal (Australian Open). The one played by Djokovic and Tsitsipas yesterday ranks among them and perhaps the best final played on a clay court.
Except in the Agassi Vs Ivanisevic game, the player I rooted won eventually in five sets. (Naga take note). Oh yeah, in the 1990 final I was undecided whom to support, Edberg or Becker, both my favorites and by the time I decided who to support, slightly leaning towards Becker, Edberg won. I think that must be the fastest five setter ever played in a grand slam final, both being compulsive serve and volleyers, they did not waste too much time in rallies. Nadal beat Federer in 2009 Australian open final, again a five setter. So one more result that did not go my way.
Unforgettable Five Set Finals – The players.
Of the current players, Djoko is my favourite (it goes without saying, that is, after Federer). But I get least upset when Djoko beats Federer. Djokovic’s win yesterday in French open will seriously threaten Federer’s GOAT tag. Not only Djoko has won all the majors at least twice, (Nadal has won only one Australian open and Federer only one French open). Federer played some extraordinary tennis in French open, but then, did not beat Nadal and Djoko has done that. The GOAT will become a topic of discussion again. I just found out that it has already started. You can read why Djoko is the ‘GOAT’ from Indian Express article here: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-why-not-federer-or-nadal-but-djokovic-is-the-greatest-of-all-time-7357535/
Enough about Djoko. It was all Stefanos Tsitsipas yesterday. This was the first match I was seeing Tsitsipas and I started liking him immediately. First the one handed backhand a la McEnroe and Federer. The one handed backhand is as stylish as the left hand batsman sorry batter making a cover or square drive in cricket. Some say double handed backhand is sissy – I will not go to that extent but it is definitely less attractive than single handed backhand.
From the word go, he matched Djoko and surpassed him many times. When Djoko dropped volleys he rushed to take them and then he started dropping volleys himself. If Djoko rushed to nets, he started doing them, only marginally better. If Djoko hit backhand cross court, well, he did it. When he was a break down, he broke one himself in the first set, forced a tie-breaker, ran a 4-0 lead, lost a couple and still won the set. And he breezed through the second set.
He covered the court as much as possible and then some. It is not easy for an underdog to go two – love up against Djokovic. But then the Djoko Houdini act happened for the umpteenth time. He went to the locker room, changed his T shirt, came back and played some Tennis only he could play. Even half way down the fifth set, Djoko had won only seven points more than the challenger.
What we like in all great tennis players is, the ability to remain calm and Tsitsipas already exhibited it. He just swore once after making an unforced error and a double fault, and won the next three points and the game. No silly racket throwing tantrums and shouting at line judges and arguing with the chair umpire kind of stuff we have seen in the past from young players. And he is just 22 years old which makes this maturity all the more amazing. He did not give in till the last moment, saved one match point. But that was not good enough when you are facing the third ‘GOAT’ for me after Pete Sampras and Federer and second ‘GOAT’ after Federer for most of the people I know.
We don’t exactly remember when our loyalties shift from one great to another when the first one calls it a day. From Borg to McEnroe and then to Becker and Edberg, then to Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisevic and then to Federer and Djokovic. It may happen just as it did, after McEnroe beat Borg in the return match in 1981 and Borg called it a day when he was just twenty six, or like when Becker with childish smile and age (17 years) became the youngest Champion in Wimbledon or when Pete Sampras, tongue protruding, started belting out winners aces and winners or Federer when he beat his idol Pete Sampras in Round 4 of Wimbledon. It happens at one moment or over a period of time. I am sure, Tsitsipas will be the next favourite.
He looked so dejected on the podium. I would have liked him to smile a bit during the presentation ceremony. But then that would have made him Buddha. He however, acknowledged that he lost to a great player and said he hoped to achieve at least half of what Djokovic had achieved. Remarkable Player.
Oh yeah, Tsitsipas is going to be my next favourite. Pronouncing his name is going to be a challenge. But then we have learnt to spell and pronounce the names of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger and Agnieszka Radwanska. So we can definitely spell Stefanos Tsitsipas who will be the next big name in Tennis.
If you have missed the match, or want to watch some highlights, it is here: