Novak Djokovic may not have won his 18th grand slam title, but the World No.1 might just have earned some new fans after a classy response to his French Open heartbreak.
Djokovic was surprisingly dismantled in the Roland Garros decider against Rafael Nadal, who claimed a record-equalling 20th grand slam singles title.
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Nadal matched Roger Federer's incredible mark after inflicting a rare straight sets defeat on Djokovic in the Paris final.
Djokovic, who has been a target for criticism since his US Open disqualification for hitting a ling judge with a tennis ball, was full of praise for Nadal after the match.
"I don't have much to say but that I was completely outplayed by Rafa, by the better player on the court," top seed Djokovic, who many thought was a slight favourite to end Nadal's domination at Roland Garros, told reporters.
"He was not missing at all and getting every ball back, just playing tactically great. I felt well throughout the entire tournament. I thought I was in a great form.
"Certainly, I could have played better, especially in the first two sets. But he did surprise me with the way he was playing, the quality of tennis he was producing," Djokovic added.
"He's phenomenal. He played a perfect match, especially in the first two sets."
Djokovic came under fire during his quarter-final victory over Pablo Carreno Busta, with his Spanish opponent and fans claiming that the World No.1 used medical timeouts for injuries as a tactic, before he eventually sealed a comeback win.
Even speaking about his battles with Nadal, the Serbian star managed to find himself in the middle of a sexism storm after describing their rivalry as “the biggest head-to-head in the history of tennis”.
Chris Evert rightly pointed out that her own 80-match rivalry with Martina Navratilova dwarfs the 56 times Djokovic and Nadal have faced one another.
Unfortunately for Djokovic, a certain level of negativity seems to accompany him whether he's winning or losing.
Speaking after his defeat to Nadal in the French Open final, Djokovic said he had resigned himself to the fact that he will never please everyone.
“I understand that there are people that don’t like maybe what I do on or off the court,” Djokovic said.
“I understand that I can’t be liked by everyone. That’s fine. I think it’s important to have an understanding of who you are and your position in this life, be grateful and move on."
Djokovic takes positives from final defeat
The 33-year-old said while he's disappointed with how his grand slam tournament ended, he has much to be thankful about.
“I try to remind myself of how blessed I am really to be in this position,” Djokovic said.
“I’m just very blessed and grateful to have the life that I have right now, without a doubt.
"I have to constantly repeat that to myself, that nothing should be taken for granted.”
Incredibly, Nadal made only 14 unforced errors and while Djokovic made 52, many were the result of desperation as he tried to fathom a way to stop the onslaught.
"No holding him back it seems like. It's amazing. I mean, I admire all his achievements, I mean, especially the one here," Djokovic said of Nadal's record at Roland Garros which now reads 100-2 in terms of wins and losses.
Djokovic had a 37-1 record this year going into the final, his only "loss" being his default at the US Open.
Rarely does the sharp-minded Djokovic make a mistake with his strategy, but he said his ploy to use the drop shot liberally against Nadal, as he had all tournament, had backfired.
Nadal read most of them and Djokovic's success rate with the shot was mediocre at best.
"It didn't work great today, let's say," Djokovic, who has now lost all three French Open finals in which he faced Nadal, said. "He was winning a lot of those drop shot points. He was playing all the right shots today."
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