Tennis fans at the turn of the millenium have been blessed to witness three potential GOAT candidates in Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Of these three, it was Djokovic who rose to prominence the latest. Yet his achievements since then have matches those of both Federer and Nadal. It’s worth noting that at this point in time, he is only two Slams away from matching Federer’s all-time Grand Slam wins record. And it was on this day in 2016 that he went on to do what both his peers had already done by that point – complete a career Grand Slam. He did so by winning the French Open.
With five years having passed since the day, let us look back at what is a momentous achievement by Novak Djokovic.
Much like Federer’s sole win at Roland Garros, Djokovic’s win in 2016 owed something to the absence of Nadal. In 2009, Nadal was knocked out by Robin Soderling – who lost the final to Federer.
In 2016, however, it was worse. He withdrew from the tournament with a wrist injury ahead of his third round encounter.
To make matters better for Djokovic, Federer had also pulled out of the tournament. In his case, he began what would become a tradition to skip the clay court season.
That meant for Djokovic, the main opponent to overcome would be Andy Murray or defending champion Stanislas Wawrinka. Both of them fell on the other side of the draw, meaning he would only encounter one of them in the final.
As fate would have it, Murray knocked Wawrinka out in the semi-final. This meant he became the first male tennis player since Bunny Austin in 1937 to reach the men’s singles final.
Fittingly, it was the top 2 seeded players who were contesting the final.
Djokovic was the favourite going into the final. However, Murray took everyone by surprise when he claimed the first set 6-3.
But that was as good as it got for the Scot. Djokovic roared back into the game, winning the second set 6-1 and then the third set 6-2. For Murray, not converting a break point in the second set proved to be a turning point.
Djokovic won the fourth set 6-4 and wrapped up the championship in under three hours. This win meant he had achieved a career Grand Slam as well as a non-calendar year Grand Slam – he won the Australian Open in 2016 as well as the US Open and Wimbledon in 2015.
Djokovic was on course for a calendar slam too, but lost in the third round of Wimbledon. Incidentally, it was Murray who ended up winning his home slam that year.
This was also Djokovic’s last Slam title win of the year, as he lost the US Open final to Wawrinka.