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ATP Awards of the Week: Djokovic cleans up at French Open

June 14, 2021
Novak Djokovic holds the Coupe des Mousquetaires

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

Welcome to the ATP Awards of the Week. Every week from now until the National Bank Open, we will be highlighting the best and worst from the previous week on the ATP Tour.

This week, our awards cover the last two weeks to include the entirety of Roland Garros.

What a week… well, two weeks.

The second Grand Slam of the season is now in the books and a dramatic final weekend has certainly left tennis fans wanting more.

Roland Garros gave us everything we could have ever wanted; drama, history, epic comebacks. You name it, the French Open had it.

Let’s take a minute to look back, appreciate everything we witnessed over the last fortnight and honour those who stole the show.

Performance of the Week: Novak Djokovic

The sheer fact of winning a Grand Slam title would be enough for anyone to be named the top performer on a given week.

But it’s not just that Novak Djokovic won his 19th Grand Slam singles title last week at the French Open, it’s HOW he did it. Here is a list of some of the things he accomplished in winning Roland Garros:

  • Beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
  • Became the only person to beat Nadal twice at Roland Garros.
  • Became the first person to beat Nadal in best-of-five on clay after losing the first set (Nadal was 112-0 before Djokovic’s victory).
  • Became the first person to beat Nadal at Roland Garros AND go on to win the title.
  • Came back from two sets down in the final to win.
  • Became the first person in the Open Era to come back from two sets down twice in a tournament and win the title.
  • Became the first man in the Open Era to win all four Grand Slam singles titles twice.
  • Became the first and to-date only man to win all four Grand Slam singles titles twice since the introduction of hard courts at the Slams
  • Joined Nadal and Mats Wilander as the only men to win at least two Grand Slam singles titles on each surface.
  • He is halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam
  • He is one title back of Nadal and Roger Federer on the all-time men’s Slam singles title list.

Enough said.

Match of the Week: Roland Garros semi-final – Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2

While this year’s French Open had plenty of epic five-setters, the best match of the week was more about quality than quantity, although it was still a four-hour four-setter.

The minute the draw came out, everyone had the potential/likely semi-final clash between Djokovic and Nadal circled on their calendar. And unlike last year, where Nadal crushed Djokovic in the final, this one very much lived up to the hype.

The middle two sets were close to the highest quality clay court tennis ever seen, at least according to some of the viewers.

And the match had everything. High quality points, momentum swings, you name it, it was there. The match was so good that the government of France made a special exemption to Paris’ COVID curfew to allow fans to stay and watch to the end.

And of course the result was historic, as any Nadal loss at Roland Garros is.

While it may not have been as epic as their 2013 semi-final, there can be no question that this match was the high point of the tournament, which is really saying something considering how good the other semi-final and the final were.

Surprise of the Week: Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

For the most part, the 2021 French Open men’s singles draw was pretty predictable, with seven of the eight quarter-finalists ranking in the top ten.

The one who did not was 22-year-old Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who reached his first career major quarter-final in just his fifth Grand Slam main draw appearance.

The Spaniard took advantage of some upsets to bust out of the most open section of the draw. Still, he earned his spot in the last eight with some gritty wins, including back-to-back five-set victories in the second and third rounds.

The second of those two wins was an epic with 15th seed Casper Ruud, one of the tour’s better clay court players, which Davidovich Fokina won 7-5 in the fifth.

Unforced Error of the Week: Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem’s 2021 season has been forgettable to say the least, but a return to Roland Garros, where he had reached the quarter-finals or better five years in a row including two semi-finals and two finals in 2018 and 2019, was supposed to herald a return to form for the 2020 US Open champion.

At the very least, he would win a few matches, right? In every French Open appearance in his career, he had won at least a round.

Well, everything seemed to be going according to plan for the Austrian as he took a two-set lead over Pablo Andujar in his first-round match. But then 2021 Thiem showed up and he proceeded to lose three straight sets to bow out in the opening round of the French Open for the first time.

The loss was so stunning that Thiem even had to put out a message on Twitter the following day.

Upset of the Week: Jan-Lennard Struff d. Andrey Rublev – Roland Garros R1

You could argue that Djokovic beating Nadal was the biggest upset of the week, but given that Djokovic had beaten Nadal at Roland Garros before and leads their head-to-head, it was not the biggest upset of the tournament.

That honour goes to Andrey Rublev, the seventh seed who went down in the first round to Jan-Lennard Struff.

The young Russian, who has been one of the most consistent players on the ATP Tour since the beginning of 2020, had plenty of reason to have high expectations coming into Paris after reaching the fourth round or better at every major dating back to the 2019 US Open and had reached three straight major quarter-finals. He had also beaten Nadal on clay in Monte Carlo in April.

But he started slowly against Struff, dropping the first two sets, and although he managed to rally and force a fifth set, it was too little too late as he ultimately fell 6-4 in the decider.

Canadian Performance of the Week: Félix Auger-Aliassime – Stuttgart Runner-up

Believe it or not, Roland Garros was not the only tournament going on last week.

While Djokovic, Nadal and co. were duking it out on the dirt, Félix Auger-Aliassime was tearing it up on the grass.

The Canadian kicked off his grass court season with a strong performance in Stuttgart last week, playing some clutch tennis to reach his eighth career ATP final. He opened up the tournament by winning four straight tiebreaks before getting a few decisive breaks in his semi-final to advance to his second final at the MercedesCup.

Unfortunately, he once again fell short in the final, losing in straight sets to Marin Cilic, who had taken out Denis Shapovalov in the quarter-finals.

Auger-Aliassime will look to keep it rolling this week in Halle.

Under the Radar: Leo Borg

While people were celebrating taking note of the 40-year anniversary of the great Bjorn Borg winning his final Grand Slam title in 1981, his son Leo made his junior Grand Slam debut at Roland Garros.

The younger Borg, who once played his father in a film, managed to win his first two matches before falling in a third set tiebreak to top seed Juncheng Shang. While he did not continue his dad’s dominance on the clay, there is still plenty of time for the 18-year-old to follow in his father’s footsteps.

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