The 29-year-old Serb became the first man for 47 years to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time when he beat Murray 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to win at Roland Garros for the first time.
Murray, who was aiming to become only the second British winner here, was ultimately outplayed by his long-time rival, who may well eventually come to be regarded as the greatest player of all time.
Djokovic’s 12th Grand Slam title leaves him five short of Roger Federer’s all-time record. If the world No 1 continues at his current rate it will not be long before he catches the Swiss.
Having lost in his previous three finals here, Djokovic finally succeeded in his attempt to become only the eighth man in history – after Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Federer - to win all four Grand Slam titles.
He is the first man since Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam trophies and is now halfway to becoming only the third man ever – after Budge and Laver – to win a pure Grand Slam of the sport’s four major titles in the same year.
Djokovic described his victory as “a very special moment, perhaps the biggest of my career” while Murray said during the presentation ceremony:
“This is Novak’s day today. What he has achieved in the last 12 months is phenomenal. Winning all four of the Grand Slams in the last year is an amazing achievement. That’s something that is so rare in tennis. It hasn’t happened for an extremely long time and it will take a long time for it to happen again.”
Murray said that everyone in the crowd had been fortunate to witness a moment of tennis history and added: “For me personally being on the other side of the net it sucks to lose the match, but I’m proud to have been part of today.”
The Scot, whose results on clay have improved hugely in the last two years, was playing in his first French Open final. Victory over Djokovic in their most recent meeting, in last month’s Rome Masters final, and an outstanding performance in beating Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals had raised hopes that Murray might become the first British winner here since Perry in 1936, but in the end the world No 1 was an emphatic winner.
Although Murray beat Djokovic in the final when he won his two Grand Slam titles, at the US Open and Wimbledon, this was his fifth defeat to the Serb in seven Grand Slam finals. Murray might have become an accomplished clay-court player in the last two years, but Djokovic is a long-time master of the surface. Some of the Serb’s sliding into his shots and sprints across the court were magnificent to watch.
Murray started to look tired from the second set onwards. Djokovic’s brilliant athleticism and the constant pressure he exerts can have that effect on opponents. Murray may also have paid the price for his earlier exertions. The Scot had dropped six sets en route to the final compared with Djokovic’s one and had been on court for five hours more.
There are times when Murray can be the king of the drop shot, but he was usurped here. Djokovic played his drop shots beautifully, sometimes from behind the baseline, and repeatedly chased down Murray’s best efforts. Moving at electrifying speed across the court, the world No 1 would not only pick up Murray’s drop shots but also play some stunning winners, usually flicked cross-court with an exquisite touch.
Djokovic also had the upper hand when it came to returning serve. The top seed attacked Murray’s second serve with particular venom, often forcing the Scot to play half-volleys from the baseline. If he did not hit winners off the return he would regularly take the point with his follow-up shot. Murray’s improved serve has been one of the features of his game this year, but he did not serve so well here.
Given that this has been one of the wettest and gloomiest French Opens in living memory, tournament organisers must have been relieved to see it finish on time. For days the weather forecasters had predicted thunderstorms around the time of the men’s final, but instead the skies were calm, even if there was no sign of the sun until the presentation ceremony at the end. Perhaps surprisingly, the majority of the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier were behind Djokovic.
Murray could hardly have made a worse start, dropping his serve to love in the opening game, but broke back immediately. Two games later he broke again, taking advantage of some uncharacteristically loose play by a nervous-looking Djokovic, and went on to serve out for the set after 45 minutes.
He did so despite a lengthy interruption and prolonged booing from the crowd after the umpire, Damien Dumusois, ruled that a missed Djokovic return had not been affected by an erroneous call of “out” on a Murray serve.
At this stage the only other time Murray’s rhythm was threatened was when he became distracted by the presence of a French TV personality, Nelson Monfort, sitting next to his entourage. However, the Scot was repeatedly annoyed during the match by both the overhead “spidercam” camera and by spectators calling out as he served.
Everything changed at the start of the second set. In the opening game Murray forced a break point after turning stonewall defence into thrilling attack, upon which he punched the air in celebration. Djokovic, however, won the next point with a smash, held serve and went on to break in the next game. Murray went two break points down when he put an attempted drop shot into the net and double-faulted on the second of them.
The momentum had quickly swung in favour of Djokovic. Murray saved two break points two games later, but at 1-4 was broken again. The rally which took Djokovic to break point typified the match as the Serb raced into the net to pick up Murray’s drop shot and then hit a winner off it. A backhand winner down the line on the next point completed the job.
Under pressure in almost every service game, Murray could have done without his mistake on break point in the third game of the third set, when he put what should have been an easy volley into the net. Djokovic again hit a winner after retrieving a drop shot to make his second break of the set in the fifth game. Murray, refusing to give in, forced four break points in the following game but could not convert any of them.
Djokovic broke once again in the opening game of the fourth set after hitting a succession of potent returns. Murray hung on grimly, but when he served at 2-4 he was broken again, this time to love. Nevertheless, the Scot can always be guaranteed to fight to the last. When Djokovic served for the match at 5-2 he dropped serve, Murray hitting a winning forehand cross-court pass on break point.
Murray held in the next game, after which Djokovic had a second chance to serve out for the match. At 40-15 he double-faulted on his first match point and then put a backhand wide on the second after being outrallied. Was the world No 1 about to crack on the brink of his defining moment? A drive volley winner at deuce and some excellent hitting on the third match point, which ended with Murray netting a backhand, provided the answer.
At the end Djokovic repeated the famous celebration here of Gustavo Kuerten – who was watching in the crowd – by drawing a big heart in the clay with his racket and then falling on his back in the middle of it. It was an appropriate ending to a memorable day.
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