Rewind to: When Novak Djokovic clinched his maiden French Open and created history

Novak Djokovic won his first French Open title in 2016 and he defeated Andy Murray in four sets to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time.

Novak Djokovic achieved a career Grand Slam in 2016 when he won French Open. (Image credit: Twitter)

Novak Djokovic is on the cusp of creating history on Sunday. The World No.1 defeated Rafael Nadal in a pulsating four-set thriller in the semi-final to reach the final. Djokovic will take on Stefanos Tsitsipas, one of the younger generation. The Greek is aiming to stake a claim in the tennis world after the end of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic. A win for Novak Djokovic will make him the first player in the history of the Open Era to win all four Grand Slams twice. Rod Laver is the other individual who has won all four Grand Slams twice. But he never won them all in the Open Era.

Novak Djokovic is the only player in history to have beaten Rafael Nadal two times in the French Open. He also has a positive head-to-head record against both Federer and Nadal. A win on Sunday will take him to 19 Grand Slams, one behind the duo of Federer and Nadal. It is apt that the French Open becomes the stage where Djokovic creates history yet again. Five years ago, in 2016, Djokovic took his first step in becoming a great.

Novak Djokovic’s glory in 2016 French Open

The 2016 French Open was the second season among the men that none of Federer and Nadal featured. In the 21st century, Federer withdrew from the tournament due to an injury. To make matters worse, Nadal, who had won the tournament close to 10 times also withdrew due to a wrist injury. 

Nadal had already lost to Djokovic in the 2015 French Open semi-final. But, in a masterful stroke of destiny, Satn Wawrinka upset the odds and managed to win the French Open title. In 2016, the stage was set for Djokovic to do something remarkable. 

Djokovic blazed through the first three rounds before he faced a stiff opponent in Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round. Agut won the first set but Djokovic bounced back to win the next three sets in grand style. In the quarters and semis, Djokovic defeated Tomas Berdych and Dominic Thiem in straight sets to enter the final. However, defending champion Wawrinka crashed out in four tough sets to Andy Murray. Djokovic, who had lost to Wawrinka in the 2015 final, now had one more chance of redemption. 

Djokovic gets the better of Murray

In the final, Djokovic had a nervous start as he lost the first set 6-3. However, just like the fourth round against Agut, Djokovic recovered in style. The next three sets saw an exhibition of Tennis from the Serb maestro. Djokovic won 6-1,6-2,6-4 and created history in Roland Garros. 

Djokovic completed a career Grand Slam and achieved a non-calendar year Grand Slam with this title. The Serb became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at once. He became the first man in history to do so on three different surfaces. Djokovic spent his 200th week at number one in the ATP rankings during the first week of the tournament. It was his 100th week in a row at number one in the ATP rankings during the second week of the tournament. Djokovic also improved his record for the most ranking points ever held by any player to 16,950.

Plenty at stake for Djokovic

Ever since the French Open in 2016, Djokovic has been on a different level altogether. After undergoing a lean patch in 2017 due to injuries and form, Djokovic roared back in 2018 to win the Wimbledon and US Open. In 2019, he won the Australian Open and since then, he has been the undisputed king. 

Djokovic won one of the greatest finals in the history of Tennis when he beat Federer in July 2019. Although he has not lived up to the mark in the US and Wimbledon tournaments since 2019, Djokovic has been the master at the Australian Open, winning in 2020 and 2021.

If Djokovic wins the French Open on Sunday, he will leave Nadal and Federer behind to win all four Grand Slams twice. With his head-to-head record improving against both Federer and Nadal, it will take some doing for these two greats to even match up to Djokovic. The 2016 French Open title laid the base for Djokovic to become one of the greats along with Federer and Nadal. The 2021 French Open might lay the foundation for Djokovic to be better than both Federer and Nadal.

Sportslumo Desk

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