Novak Djokovic looking to bounce back after French Open final defeat

 

Novak Djokovic's French Open mitigation should have sounded alarms across the tennis world: instead it almost resembled personal reassurance.

Three consecutive defeats in grand slam finals and just one win in six, and even the steely Serb is forgiven for harbouring private doubts.

"I'll keep coming back again and again until I win it," said the empty-handed 27-year-old after his second French Open final defeat.

Djokovic's best chance yet to complete the career grand slam went up in smoke on Sunday as Rafael Nadal claimed his ninth Roland Garros crown.

Had he uttered those words in January 2012, the tennis world would have quaked.

Two years on the world number two seems acutely aware it is time to stem any unsettling nearly-man talk.

New coach Boris Becker inspired Djokovic's run to the final, but there was no denying Nadal his fifth French title in succession.

Djokovic's greatest immediate challenge now is to prove Sunday's defeat to Nadal centred on the Spaniard's near-freakish dominance on clay, not an unwelcome developing trend.

"I'm an emotional player and I have to show those emotions on the court, so I will keep doing that," said Djokovic.

"Of course it was disappointing but life goes on.

"I'll be back in Paris in the future, and for now I've got to keep chasing other top tournaments."

Djokovic terrorised the world in 2011, claiming the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open - before reclaiming the Australian crown to boot.

The Belgrade-born battler was all set to usurp Nadal, Roger Federer and anyone else in his wake - but has won just one slam title since, Australia again in 2013.

Djokovic has previously admitted his obsession with landing the French Open, the only slam to elude him so far, rendered him impotent in the 2012 final showdown with Nadal.

Sunday's repeat contest served up the same result, leaving Djokovic fending off those frustration demons once again as he gears up for SW19.

Anyone scrapping to loosen the stranglehold on the men's game of the big three will struggle to empathise too greatly with the plight of a six-time grand slam winner - just ask Tomas Berdych.

Stanislas Wawrinka muscled in on the Nadal-Djokovic-Federer-Nadal cartel by claiming this year's Australian Open, and Andy Murray has two slam titles too.

Beyond that the pickings remain all too thin, with Czech Berdych reaching the 2010 Wimbledon final, only to be dispatched by Nadal.

Berdych sits sixth in the world heading up to SW19, but when he surveys his career, at 28 he suffers mixed emotions.

"When you look at the dominance of the big three in the last 10 years, I will be proud to tell my children I competed with and beat them in my career," he told Press Association Sport.

"But at the same time you start to realise time is moving on, and of course, every player wants to break that dominance, and everyone wants to win top trophies and grand slams.

"In any other era you would have had one champion of champions - we have had three."

PA

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