“Would Prefer Best Of 5 to Best Of 3”: Novak Djokovic Reverses His Opinion on Five-Setters in Grand Slams Ahead of French Open 2021

Published 05/23/2021, 1:36 PM EDT
Tennis – ATP Cup – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 5, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during his group stage match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev REUTERS/Jaimi Joy


World number one Novak Djokovic, who is gearing up for the ATP Belgrade-2 Open, turned 34 yesterday. The Serb is one of the top contenders to win the French Open title this year.

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As Djokovic decided to opt-out of Barcelona Open and Madrid Masters, it looked like he would be under-prepared to play in Paris. But the Serb played incredible tennis at the Italian Open and reached the finals. He was defeated by Rafael Nadal, who won his tenth title in Rome.

Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 16, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic poses with the runners up trophy after losing against Spain’s Rafael Nadal in the final REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
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At the Rome Masters, Djokovic managed to register memorable victories against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lorenzo Sonego. In both these matches, the Serb managed to hold his nerves while playing crucial points.

Even though he was not playing his best tennis, Djokovic’s clutch game helped him emerge victorious from difficult situations.

“I am setting everything up to peak at Roland Garros” – Novak Djokovic

Speaking about his performance in Rome, the world number one expressed immense satisfaction with the way he approached the tournament.

I was pleased with the way I played in Rome, in the finals as well, where I felt I could have gone on for a few more hours. That means I am ready to battle in the best of five. I am setting everything up to peak at RG. In Belgrade, it is about match play and some details,” Djokovic explained.

The 18-time Grand Slam champion remained extremely confident about Roland Garros. With Dominic Thiem yet to find his best form, Djokovic holds the position of the rightful contender to the French Open crown, after Rafael Nadal.

Also, the Serb’s adaptability to various surfaces has always been exemplary throughout his career. After the Italian Open finals, Djokovic mentioned that he didn’t feel fatigued playing back-to-back matches for two days.

Djokovic reverses his stance in the Best of 5 versus Best of 3 debate

The Serb now feels that he would like to play the best of five sets against next-gen players instead of playing three sets.

Playing the young guys, I would prefer best of 5 to best of 3. I feel I am fit, I have more experience. It doesn’t guarantee me the win, but I feel like I’m in a better position. The more it goes, the more I feel I am able to wear them down,” the Serb concluded.

Late last year, the Serb was one of the few top players to recommend that the best of three-set matches be played at Grand Slams. Djokovic felt that a lot of tennis fans are on the older side, and to grab the attention of youngsters, the matches should be finished quickly.

Having turned a year older, Djokovic might have realized the need to win big titles and the only way to win them consistently against the younger players is through best of five sets (at Grand Slams).

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Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 16, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his final match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Even though next-gen players were able to defeat the Big-3 in the best of three sets (played in ATP tournaments), they are still struggling to play with consistent momentum for five sets. This is where players like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic get the advantage with their humongous experiences.

Considering the age factor, the statement made by the Serb makes sense. While both the tours aren’t willing to change the best of five sets at Grand Slam anytime soon, it will be interesting to see how far the debate over the “Best of 5 vs Best of 3” sustains in the sport.

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Sagar Ashtakoula

214 articles

Sagar Ashtakoula is a tennis writer at EssentiallySports. He has been following the sport since 2007. Having developed an interest in creating content, he mixed his passion for writing with his love for tennis for 2 years at SportsKeeda before joining the tennis team at EssentiallySports.

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