World tennis number one Novak Djokovic became the first man in nearly a half-century to win four consecutive major championships and finally earned an elusive French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, beating Andy Murray 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on Sunday.
This was the top-seeded Djokovic’s 12th appearance at Roland Garros, and his fourth final, and after being stymied over and over in years past, he managed to cast aside a shaky opening set to dominate No. 2 Murray the rest of the way, buoyed by a supportive crowd that repeatedly chanted his nickname, “No-le!”
When his victory was over, Djokovic took a racket to etch a heart in the red clay that had given him such heartache in the past and dropped down on his back.
Since losing the 2015 final in Paris, Djokovic has won 28 Grand Slam matches in a row, from Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, to the Australian Open in January, and now, at long last, the French Open.
The last man to hold all four major titles simultaneously was Rod Laver in 1969, when he earned a calendar-year Grand Slam. Djokovic now can set his sights on that ultimate tennis achievement, because he is halfway there.
The 29-year-old Serb’s first French Open trophy goes alongside six from the Australian Open, three from Wimbledon and two from the U.S. Open to give him a total of 12. Among men, only Roger Federer (with 17), Rafael Nadal (14) and Pete Sampras (14) own more.
On Sunday – the weather overcast but dry, unlike so much of the rainy past two weeks – the first choruses of “No-le! No-le!” accompanied Djokovic’s entrance to the court. They returned when an announcer introduced Djokovic during the warmup period. And again when he skipped from sideline to baseline to receive in the opening game – and, louder still, when Djokovic broke two-time major champion Murray to start.
All in all, it sounded as if this were Belgrade, rather than a neutral site.