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June 14, 2021

Novak Djokovic picked up his 19th Grand Slam win Sunday at the French Open, bringing him one title short of tying with Rafael Nadal and Roger Feder for the record for the most Grand Slam championships won by a male player, though the Serbian player’s success this year comes amid offcourt scrutiny for his controversial remarks about the coronavirus pandemic.

Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a grueling four-hour match in Paris Sunday, even after falling behind at first and losing the first two sets, to win his first French Open title since he won the tournament in 2016.

With his other 9 Australian Opens, five titles at Wimbledon and three U.S. Open championships, Djokovic is closer than ever to retiring with more Grand Slams under his belt than any male player, which he’s said is his career goal.

With one more Grand Slam to go until he hits  Nadal's and  Federer’s 20-title record, Djokovic has momentum going for him—he won both Grand Slam tournaments so far this year, in Sydney in February and in Paris on Sunday, and in just two weeks will compete in London at Wimbledon, where he is the defending champion.

While Djokovic excels on the court as the world slowly emerges from the coronavirus pandemic and resumings major sporting events, he’s courted controversy for downplaying the virus and forgoing social distancing. In April 2020, Djokovic said he was “opposed to vaccination” and was undecided if he would take a coronavirus vaccine even if it were required to compete in international tennis tournaments. Djokovic also held a charity exhibition tour in June 2020 with few social distancing measures in place, and later tested positive for the virus along with other players who took part after being photographed partying in close quarters. As recently as last month, Djokovic said he hopes the vaccine won’t be mandated for tennis players, though he noted he doesn’t plan on sharing his vaccination status publicly: “I don't want to be labeled as someone who is against or who is for vaccines. I'm not going to answer the question,” he said during a presser at the Serbia Open.

 

This year’s French Open was an unusual one, marked by early exits for seasoned players. Naomi Osaka withdrew from the tournament after the first round. She’d previously been fined $15,000 by tournament organizers for skipping the mandatory post-match press conference over concerns it was harmful for her mental health. Roger Federer also withdrew just ahead of his fourth-round match to give himself time to rest his right knee, which underwent two surgeries last year, before Wimbledon. Serena Williams lost in straight sets in a shocking fourth-round upset to 22-year-old Elena Rybakina, who hadn’t yet been born when Williams made her French Open debut in 1998. The women’s singles title was won Saturday by Barbora Krejcikova, who was unseeded and is better known for her being a doubles player. It was her first Grand Slam singles win. On Sunday, Krejcikova also took home the doubles title with partner Katerina Siniakova, marking the first time a player won both the doubles and singles championships of the French Open in more than 20 years.