Tsitsipas stands in Djokovic's way to close gap to Grand Slam greatest

·2 min read

Just after beating the sixth seed Alex Zverev over five sets to become the first Greek to reach a Grand Slam final, Stefanos Tsitsipas said he was blessed to be testing himself against the best. One final test remains, as he challenges world number one Novak Djokovic for the French Open title.

The 22-year-old and the rest of the world will have an opportunity to gauge the extent of the fifth seed's progress on Sunday afternoon when he plays the top seed Novak Djokovic at the French Open.

Djokovic, who will contest his 29th final at a Grand Slam tournament, will be seeking his 19th title.

"It's time for me to show that I'm capable of playing Novak," said Tsitsipas. "I'm looking forward to that challenge. I'm looking forward to challenging myself, to step it up. "

Challenge

He will have to. Djokovic was imperious on Friday evening during his four hour victory over the defending champion Rafael Nadal.

It was brutal, intense tennis which made Tsitsipas's three and a half hour battle with Zverev resemble a folk dance.

That clash too had its eddies. But nothing like the vicissitudes and savage beauty of the two ageing warriors grappling for supremacy for a 58th time.

Djokovic will start the 2021 final as hot favourite despite that draining conquest.

"I think he has matured as a player a lot," said the 34-year-old Serb of Tsitsipas. "Clay is arguably his best service.

"I'm hoping I can recharge my batteries as much as I can because I'm going to need some power and energy for the match."

Djokovic has won five of his seven encounters with Tsitsipas. Three of them have been on clay, most recently in the last eight at the Italian Open in Rome last month.

"We played an epic five-setter last year in the semis here," added Djokovic. "I know it's going to be another tough one."

If he wins, Djokovic will join Roy Emerson and Rod Laver as the only men to have claimed each of the four Grand Slams tournaments twice.

He will stand alone though as the only man to have pulled off the feat since tennis became open to professionals in 1968.

If Tsitsipas hoists the Coupe des Mousquetaires, it will launch a party that will go down in legend in his homeland.

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