When Stefanos Tsitsipas’ first Grand Slam final had ended, he sank into his changeover chair and buried his head in a towel.
Novak Djokovic has that effect on opponents.
Tsitsipas built a big lead and appeared on his way to an upset victory at the French Open, but Djokovic mounted an improbable comeback to win his 19th major title Sunday, 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
“What I learned today is that no matter what, in order for the match to be finished, you have to win three sets and not two,” Tsitsipas said. “Two sets doesn’t really mean anything.”
Not against Djokovic, who overcame a two-set deficit for the second time in the tournament and the sixth time in his career. He took a bathroom break following the second set and dominated thereafter, never facing a break point in the final three sets.
“I don’t know what happened there, but he came back like a different player suddenly,” Tsitsipas said. “He played really well. He gave me no space.”
The turnaround was surprising because at 22, Tsitsipas is 12 years younger than Djokovic, and the Greek appeared to be the fresher player in the first two sets.
Djokovic said he was braced for Tsitsipas to get off to a good start.
“You’re playing for your first Grand Slam trophy, but you don’t have much to lose,” Djokovic said. “So I knew that he’s going to probably start off very well, which was the case.”
But while Djokovic found his form and moved better as the match progressed, Tsitsipas’ game slipped. His groundstrokes became less penetrating, and by the end he wore a weary expression.
“I felt like my rhythm was off; I really don’t know why,” Tsitsipas said. “It was very strange considering that I started off finding my rhythm, finding my shots, and my movement on the court was perfect. And suddenly I just felt cold and out of it. I felt like I kind of lost my game a little bit. I really wish I could understand why.”
Tsitsipas was treated after the third set for a hip issue but dismissed it as a factor.
He was the youngest men’s finalist at Roland Garros since Rafael Nadal won the title in 2008, and was trying to become the first Greek to win a Grand Slam title.
“Despite my loss today, I have faith in my game,” Tsitsipas said. “I very much believe I can get to that point very soon. I was close today.” [AP]