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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic joined the tennis greats on Sunday when he beat Britain’s Andy Murray 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to claim his maiden French Open title and become only the third man in history to win all four grand slams in a row.
The world number one recovered from a nervous start to impose his pace on Court Philippe Chatrier and clinch his 12th grand slam crown after three previous failures in a Roland Garros final.
Djokovic is only the third man after Don Budge and Rod Laver to hold the four majors at the same time, and the eighth man to triumph at Wimbledon and the French, US and Australian Opens.
“It’s a very special moment, possibly the biggest moment in my career,” said the 29-year-old, who had lost his previous three finals on the Paris clay.
“I felt today something that I never felt before at Roland Garros, I felt the love of the crowd,” he added.
Djokovic imitated former three-time champion Gustavo Kuerten by drawing a giant heart in the court before collapsing inside it.
“I drew the heart on the court, like Guga who gave me permission to do,” said the Serbian champion. “My heart will always be with you on this court.”
Victory also allowed Djokovic to stretch his winning record over 29-year-old Murray to 24-10 overall and 8-2 in the major tournaments.
Murray, the world number two and the first British man in the final in Paris since Bunny Austin in 1937, remains with two Grand Slam titles as he failed to become the first winner of the French Open since Fred Perry 81 years ago.
“What Novak’s achieved in the last 12 months is phenomenal, winning all the Grand Slams in one year is an amazing achievement,” Murray said.
It looked like Djokovic had got off to a dream start, taking Murray’s serve to love in the first game.
But the Briton, who was playing his 10th final at a major, hit the ball early to set up three break points in the following game, converting the third with a fine lob. He held to love and then broke again, winning 16 of 20 points to lead 4-1.
Tension threatened to boil over when Murray shouted “get him out”, pointing to a French TV interviewer who was in the player’s box, before Djokovic had an altercation with the chair umpire.
As Murray was serving for the set, he was awarded a point to lead 30-0, Djokovic having hit his return before an ‘out’ call on the serve was made.
“The call was after you hit the ball. I’m 100 per cent sure,” Damien Dumusois told a frustrated Djokovic.
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“This is something that’s so rare in tennis… it’s gonna take a long time for it to happen again”
Murray, who beat Djokovic in the Rome Masters finals on clay last month, went on to win the set when his opponent netted a backhand.
He had a break point in the first game of the second set but that was as good as it got for the Scot.
Djokovic, his aggression now channelled and matched by his accuracy, won the remaining games.
He raced to a 4-1 lead in the third set, breaking in the fifth game with a delicate angled drop shot that triggered chants of ‘Nole, Nole, Nole, Nole’ in the stands.
There was no comeback in that set for the 29-year-old Murray, who then dropped serve in the opening game of the fourth set.
Djokovic, who is now on a 28-match winning streak in grand slams, broke to love to lead 5-2. Murray pulled a break back but Djokovic shook off late jitters to win the title on his third match point when the Scot netted a backhand at the end of a nail-biting rally.