Ending Rafa Nadal’s Roland Garros reign was not enough for Novak Djokovic to win the French Open as the world number one suffered his third defeat in the final of the claycourt grand slam on Sunday.
The Serb was the hot favourite going into the contest against Swiss Stan Wawrinka but the eighth seeded outsider, after an average start, went for the throat and hit a flurry of winners to claim his second major with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 win.
Eight-times grand slam champion Djokovic was looking to complete his set of majors and the odds were with him after he beat Spaniard Nadal in the quarter-finals and British third seed Andy Murray, undefeated on clay this season until then, in the semis.
Djokovic himself was 16-0 this year on the slow surface, but there was another player to beat.
“One thing is for sure there are two players who want this trophy, not just me,” he told a news conference after Sunday’s defeat. “Some people wanted to create a story where it’s just me. It feels like (people thought) I was the only player who wants to win this trophy.
“I’m not trying to release the pressure, it’s part of what I do, but today I went on the court knowing I’m close but across the net there was a player who wanted to win and had not much to lose.”
Wawrinka showed he was indeed also hungry for victory by going for his shots all along, hitting twice as many winners (60 to 30).
Djokovic got off to a good start but once he had the upper hand after winning the first set, he played a few points too casually and Wawrinka, sensing an opening, stormed into contention.
Djokovic had done pretty much the same in the semi-finals against Murray, but that time managed to sneak through in five sets and over two days after the match had been interrupted by rain and dusk.
Djokovic did not look for excuses, though.
“Certainly those two matches (against Nadal and Murray) were very big in terms of physical demand and mental, emotional, as well,” he said.
“But still, I was today feeling pretty fresh as much as I could.”
“It’s a loss of course and it hurts especially in the final. I had a great claycourt season and a great Roland Garros,” said Djokovic, who lost to Nadal in the 2012 and 2014 finals.