This is the ‘Novak era’ in tennis. Every other Sunday, the Serb seems to be posing with a new trophy and adding to his already phenomenal collection. But wait… where is the photo of Djokovic with the Eiffel Tower in the background? Sadly, it’s happened only in his dreams.
In the past few years, Djokovic has put so much pressure on himself to win the The Musketeers’ Trophy, he has fallen flat on the red dirt.
Here’s a look at his Paris journey in recent times:
2015: Final: vs Stan Wawrinka
Djokovic had lost to the eighth-seeded Swiss only thrice in their 20 meetings, making him the overwhelming favourite.
Things went according to the script when the World No. 1 won the first set 6-4. The Serb was, however, not ready for what followed. Once he calmed his nerves and settled into a rhythm, Wawrinka started to unleash his one-handed backhand missiles with unfailing regularity.
Thrown off guard, Djokovic tried his best to scramble back. But the unrelenting, pyjama shorts-clad Swiss showed who the master was this day, taking the next three sets in style. Fittingly, the three-hour 12-minute contest ended with a backhand down-the-line winner from Wawrinka.
At the trophy presentation, a teary-eyed Djokovic received a standing ovation after finishing runner-up for the second straight year.
The final score: Wawrinka bt Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
2014: Final: vs Rafael Nadal
In a contest between the ruler and a contender to the throne, it was the king who continued to reign. Though the Spaniard lost the first set in a French Open final for the first time since 2006, against Roger Federer, he swung back into contention immediately.
The experience of having triumphed eight times on Court Philippe Chatrier began to show as Nadal took a tight second set 7-5. He also began to dominate play with his trademark power and precision. Djokovic fought on gamely, but did not seem to have enough, physically and mentally, to outlast his opponent.
Towards the closing stages of their three-and-a-half hour encounter, it became quite clear who the winner was.
After the defeat, a dejected Djokovic vowed to come back. “That trophy is out of reach this year, but I will come back again and again and again and again until I win it.” Nadal replied: “I am sure you will win this tournament in the future.”
The final score: Nadal bt Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.
2013: Semifinal: vs Nadal
An epic four-hour 37-minute battle ended in delight for Nadal and despair for Djokovic yet again.
As he had spent seven months on the sidelines with a troublesome knee, few expected the Spaniard to bounce back the way he did. In a seesaw battle, the pair split the first four sets, the Serbian pushing the match to the decider by winning the fourth-set tiebreak.
The final set was another marathon before Djokovic self-destructed, while serving to stay in the contest at 7-8. He missed a smash, misjudged a ball which fell well inside the baseline and over-hit two forehands to hand it to Nadal on a platter.
His uncle and coach Toni Nadal was so choked by emotion, he couldn’t even complete his reply when asked about his nephew’s triumph!
The final score: Nadal bt Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7.
2012: Final: vs Nadal
The match, which began on Sunday and finished on Monday, played out in two parts. Nadal was so dominant at the beginning, the first two sets went in his favour.
Djokovic clawed back to bag the third and was leading 2-1 in the next when a steady drizzle forced the players off the court. With the Serb putting pressure on the Nadal serve as the day ended, he was expected to put up a fight the next day.
However, the early finish seemed to have revitalised Nadal. He walked out fresh the next day to clinch a closely-fought set 7-5.
The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Serb who had registered three consecutive Grand Slam final wins over the Spaniard and was just one step away from completing the career Grand Slam.
The final score: Nadal bt Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.
2011: Semifinal: vs Federer
Djokovic had gone unbeaten for six months and 43 matches, and had the wind in his sails when he took on Federer. The Serbian was well rested too — he had a four-day break after his previous round opponent Fabio Fognini pulled out owing to injury.
Everything pointed to another Djokovic-Nadal final. However, the Swiss artist was ready to paint the town red. In fading light, Federer outshone his 24-year-old opponent, clinching the match in the fourth-set tie-break.
It had been a dramatic set, with the Swiss saving two break points to go 6-5 up and the Serb giving it his all to take the set to a tie-break. In the tie-break, though Djokovic served an ace to reduce the margin to 5-6, Federer hit his 18th ace of the match to triumph.
The final score: Federer bt Djokovic 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5).
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