French Open: Novak Djokovic claims first title in Paris to complete Career Grand Slam

After a rocky first set, Novak Djokovic found the fight to claw back and defeat Andy Muray to claim the 2016 French Open title, to complete the Career Grand Slam. At times, the match felt more like a Davis Cup affair than it did the French Open finalSerbian fans flooded the arena and provided a boisterous and rowdy backdrop for this dramatic rendition of the grand slam final in Paris. Their chants, yells, and bleacher stomping provided the soundtrack to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 Djokovic victory. It was a match that saw Murray use a heavy mixture of speed and baseline rallies to take an early lead just to see Djokovic storm back and win three straight sets. 

Rough beginnings for the world number one

The match began with a rocky start by both players. Andy Murray, once two points away from being sent packing from Paris, began his service game quickly falling behind. With the Brit down 0-30, Djokovic played a perfect drop shot to draw his opponent in. Murray, barely able to get to the ball, then watched as the Serbian-born player whipped a return right past him.  In the next point, Murray went long with a return and gave Djokovic the break in the first game of the match. The Scot failed to win a single point in that first game.

Not to be outdone, Djokovic's clumsy forehand allowed Murray to take a 0-40 lead on his own serve. Then, the second-seeded player helped himself by playing a fantastic drop of his own on a break opportunity. In reaction, Djokovic came flying in for the volley and Murray scooped the ball over his head to claim the break. In a strange occurrence, neither player was able to win a single point on serve to begin the match. 

The world number two finally found his footing as he used a heavy forehand and an ace that skipped past a stationary Djokovic to hold. Djokovic, however, would not return the favor. Once again, Murray was able to break, this time after Djokovic sent another shot wide. To that point, the Serbian had only won  3 of his points on serve to begin the match.

Murray would consolidate another hold with his second ace before Djokovic finally successfully defended his serve in a game that went to deuce. The Serbian received a little luck as Murray teed up an easy pass that sailed long. 

With a combination of sloppy play by his opponent and adept quickness on the red clay, Murray would claim the first set. Djokovic appeared to have particular trouble with his forehand, as several shots went wide to end easy rallies. Those struggles helped Murray claim the first set  6-3. 

The set did have its particular point of drama. Djokovic, displeased, with a call, had a heated exchange with the chair official. This led to his Serbian contingent reigning boos upon Court Philippe Chatrier. It took several minutes before the pro-Djokovic fans would calm down. At one point, the player had to ask his rowdy base to quiet down so they match could resume. 

Djokovic takes charge

The world number one began the set second on a more steady terrain. Though he had lost the previous game, the argument with the chair umpire and the subsequent rowdy display of support seemed to light a fire under the Serbian. He fired his serves with a little more crisp and put a little more heat on his returns to consolidate a hold in his first service game. His suddenly strong play would put Murray on defense as he faced a huge break. The Scot responded with a double-fault, giving the top seed a much-needed break and a 2-0 lead in the second set. 

Djokovic, finally cutting down on the unforced errors, would then easily hold to take a commanding 3-0 lead. 

It was as if the Serbian reminded himself of his ultimate pursuit of the career grand slam and suddenly turned the jets on. He was willing to be more aggressive and topped Murray in long rally points. In one particular game, the two went back and forth firing cross-court shots. Djokovic sent one dig to the baseline and shocked Murray has he was nearly standing at the net for a subsequent return. He fired his fist in the air after the winner and the crowd, still heavily in his favor, responded with thunderous applause. The point eventually led to a 5-1 lead. 

The Serbian then served out the set to clinch 6-1, leveling the match and heavily turning the tide in his favor. The second set took only 33 minutes. 

Djokovic begins to taste history

The higher seed refused to take Murray lightly. He had already defeated Djokovic before during this clay court season. And he too was trying to win the French Open title for the first time in his career. 

That recognition led to a determined Djokovic to not let up on his Scottish counterpart. After holds from both players to begin the set, the Serbian broke on consecutive service games from Murray, including a point where he responded to a quick drop-shot with a cross-court backhand winner. It fired up the crowd once again and gave him a commanding 4-1 lead.

He would close out the set 6-2 and stand but one set away from entering the halls of career grand slam history. The reality of such a feat began to sink in as the crowd stood on edge during every single point. 

A historical accomplishment

Much like how the match began, the Serb would break Murray at the beginning of the fourth set. Murray, seemingly frustrated had heated exchange with the chair umpire about the "spider" camera that flies over the court during the match. The moment simply seemed like a microcosm of how the match had quickly turned, as it was now the hot-tempered Brit who took out his frustrations on an official. 

Andy Murray looks on during a changeover in the 2016 French Open Final. (Photo: Getty Images)
Andy Murray looks on during a changeover in the 2016 French Open Final. (Photo: Getty Images)

Murray had one last gasp in him. He broke the top seed but couldn't hold on to the momentum. Djokovic had already done significant damage by taking a 3-0 lead to begin the set. Despite Murray keeping him in reach, Djokovic was determined to finally deliver upon the promise he had made to mentor Jelena Gencic, who spotted the star as just a child and proclaimed him to"golden." The woman who would play classical music for him made him promise that he would win the French Open title. He finally was able to deliver on that promise when he sent a cross-court forehand back across the red clay. Murray returned it into the net, sending Djokovic tumbling to the court in tears of joy and jubilation. 

Djokovic becomes just the eighth man in tennis history to win the Career Grand Slam. He combines this French Open title with the six he has won at the Australian Open, his three at Wimbledon, and the two he's taken at the US Open. He also becomes the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four Grand Slams at once.

This, however, is surely the sweetest. With tearsing down his cheeks, the 2016 French Open champion thanked the crowd sending wristbands into the crowd and fist pumps into the air. 

VAVEL Logo