2021 French Open final expert picks: Djokovic vs. Tsitsipas

This article originally appeared on The Grandstand.

Expert picks are back one last time at the 2021 French Open for Sunday’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas. A three-team panel previews the action and makes its predictions.

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(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (5) Stefanos Tsitsipas

Ricky Dimon: I wouldn’t pick a non-Big 3 player over any member of the Big 3 in a Grand Slam final even if the Big 3 player was coming off an 11-hour semifinal match and had to be brought onto the court for the final in a wheelchair. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. I’ve seen enough in recent years to know that. Dominic Thiem should have won the 2020 Australian Open but crumbled at the end against Novak Djokovic. Daniil Medvedev was pretty much an even betting favorite with Djokovic in this year’s Aussie final and got blown out. Medvedev had a much better chance against Rafael Nadal at the 2019 U.S. Open, but Nadal was too tough. Other examples are Kevin Anderson (against Djokovic at Wimbledon and Nadal at the U.S. Open) and Marin Cilic (against Federer at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon). Those non-Big 3 failures don’t automatically mean that Stefanos Tsitsipas will roll over on Sunday. But they do indicate just how tough the Big 3 are in these situations. Tsitsipas vs. someone other than Nadal is actually the most competitive matchup we could get…but it still won’t make a difference. Djokovic was incredible against Nadal in the semis and on the stage of a Grand Slam final he will surely be just as good if not better. Djokovic in 4: 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.

Cheryl Murray: Tsitsipas was in tears after his five-set semifinal win over Alexander Zverev, the importance of having earned a spot in his first Grand Slam final not lost on the Greek. But what he finds when he gets there will be an inspired Djokovic, who dethroned Nadal in a semifinal epic for the ages in their evening match on Friday. Tsitsipas and Djokovic have met seven times already. The world No. 1 lost two of his first three matches against the Greek, but since the 2019 Shanghai Masters it’s been one-way traffic-all going Djokovic’s direction. If the Serb wins on Sunday, he’ll have secured a double-career Grand Slam (at least two titles at each major). Tsitsipas has played well all clay season; he even took out arch rival Medvedev en route to the final, But on Sunday he runs into the unmovable wall that is Djokovic and his record-breaking ambitions. He is just two slam titles away from equalling the record of 20 shared by Nadal and Federer. A first-time slam finalist doesn’t seem like a likely candidate to keep Djokovic from adding No. 19. Djokovic in 5: 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-4.

Pete Ziebron: Djokovic, following a 5-0 deficit to begin his semifinal match against Nadal, then steadied his game to win 22 of the next 34 games to advance to the final against Tsitsipas. This euphoric momentum will be able to be carried forward against a first-time major finalist. Tsitsipas will feel fortunate to be in the final after appearing to be in complete control of his semifinal before recovering just in time in the fifth set to withstand a valiant effort by Zverev. Djokovic and Tsitsipas met in the semis of Roland Garros last year, as well as in Rome this year, with the Serb winning both matches despite having to go the distance each time. Match play experience in finals will be on display from Djokovic, as well as his amazing ability to quickly recover from the last three grueling matches. Tsitsipas will have to settle for a string of six impressive consecutive wins and the runner-up trophy, as Djokovic gets within one major title of both Federer and Nadal by winning No. 19. Djokovic in 4: 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.