The 2021 French Open finals will be played between World No.1 Novak Djokovic and World No.5 Stefanos Tsitsipas. While the Serb beat 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal to enter the finals, the Greek beat German Alexander Zverev to make his first Grand Slam final.
The two players have met on seven occasions on the ATP tour. At the moment, Djokovic comfortably leads their head-to-head record 5-2. Interestingly, Tsitsipas has never been able to beat his senior opponent in on clay despite three attempts. Their last meeting was on the clay in the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters in the lead up to the French Open, where the Greek player lost despite leading Djokovic.
While Djokovic has won 18-Grand Slams and appeared in 29 finals, Tsitsipas will make his maiden appearance in a Major final. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the 23-year-old deals with his nerves and temperament on the big stage.
Given Djokovic’s experience at the finals and his epic win over Nadal in the semis, he is billed as the overwhelming favourite to win the finals against Tsitsipas. That said, the next gen star is sure to give his opponent a run for his money. Ahead of the all-important clash, let us look at a few factors that might help Tsitsipas do the unthinkable, en-route to capturing his first Slam.
High percentage first serve
Tsitsipas needs to find his first serves regularly while serving to Djokovic. Given that he will be up against the greatest returner in the game, he will need to regularly change directions to keep the Serb guessing. Moreover, he also needs to try and come in at regular intervals on his serve to add the element of surprise, which can make Djokovic alter his returning methods. When they last met in Rome, Tsitsipas was successful in dishing out a high percentage first serve in the first set, which proved to be beneficial. Any cheap points that the Greek can find will help him keep the pressure on the former French Open champion.
Mix up shots
Stefanos Tsitsipas also needs to avoid the trap of not getting into long rallies with Djokovic in the finals. We know how well the Serb can construct and win points at will. For Tsitsipas to now allow Djokovic much reading into the pattern of play, he must employ a lot more defensive slices in a bid to change the pace of the rallies. If Tsitsipas hopes to win his first Slam, he would have to find a way to consistently hit through the Serb. Also, the Greek needs to be mindful of the fact that he has been through some grueling matches in this year’s French Open. Therefore, the longer the rally and match goes, the more chances of Tsitsipas coming out second best.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Greek will be to believe that he can win despite any dire situation that he may come across in the finals. Since Djokovic won’t be in a mood for charity, Tsitsipas needs to enter the match with the belief that he can upset the best player in the world, en-route to his first Slam. Any doubt that gets planted on Tsitsipas’ head will likely prove to be his downfall against the mental fortitude of Djokovic.
Come tomorrow, Djokovic is likely to get his hands on the French Open trophy for the second time in his career. Furthermore, he will also become the only player after Rod Laver to win all the Slams at least twice. He will also inch even closer to his arch-rivals in the race to the most Grand Slams.
Also read: Barbora Krejcikova wins the French Open 2021