PARIS (AFP) – Novak Djokovic claimed a 19th Grand Slam title and became the first man in 52 years to win all four majors twice when he came from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a gripping French Open final on Sunday.
The world number one triumphed 6-7 (6/8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in four hours and 11 minutes over the Greek 22-year-old who was playing in his first Slam final.
Djokovic is now just one major away from equaling the all-time record of 20, jointly held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
It was a second French Open crown for Djokovic after his 2016 victory and adds to his nine Australian Opens, five Wimbledon titles and three at the US Open.
The 34-year-old is the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Slams on multiple occasions and just the third in history.
Djokovic had also spent more than four hours on court on Friday to knock out defending champion Nadal.
“It was an electric atmosphere. I want to thank everyone who has been with me on this journey,” said Djokovic.
“I have played almost nine hours over the last 48 hours against two great champions, it was really tough physically over the last three days, but I trusted in my capabilities and knew I could do it.”
Djokovic is the first man ever to win a Slam title by twice coming back from two sets down following his last-16 battle with Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti.
Djokovic now has 84 career titles in total while Sunday’s win pushed him to the brink of $150 million in prize money.
Next on the list is an assault on a calendar Grand Slam, only achieved in the men’s game by Don Budge in 1937 and Laver in 1962 and 1969, by defending his Wimbledon crown and then winning a fourth US Open.
On top of that, Djokovic also wants the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo to complete the first ever Golden Grand Slam by a male player.
“His goal and our goal is to win the Olympics and then win the Grand Slam,” said coach Marian Vajda.
Tsitsipas, meanwhile, said he was inspired to follow in Djokovic’s footsteps.
“I had good run here so I am happy with myself,” said Tsitsipas.
“Novak has shown what a great champion he is and I hope one day to have half of what he has achieved.
“I tried my best. I had a good run and I’m happy with myself.”
Tsitsipas survived a nervy opening service game, having to save two break points.
Djokovic, by contrast, didn’t concede a point in his first three service games.
But suddenly he faced a set point in the 10th game courtesy of an ugly shank but saved it after a 26-shot rally.
Fired up by a time violation, Djokovic broke for the first time for a 6-5 lead but was unable to serve out the opener as a series of razor-sharp returns put Tsitsipas back on level terms.
In a dramatic tiebreaker, Tsitsipas saw 4/0 and 5/2 leads disappear.
He had to save a set point before claiming the opener after 70 minutes when Djokovic fired a forehand wide.
Dropping the opening set at this year’s Roland Garros was familiar territory for Djokovic.
He had to recover from two sets down to beat Musetti and lost the opener against 13-time champion Nadal on Friday.
Tsitsipas, 12 years the world number one’s junior, broke again in the first game of the second set as the 2016 champion looked increasingly weary in the 30-degree afternoon heat.