Andy Murray provided a tease that he could win an unlikely French Open title but was ultimately blown away as Novak Djokovic made history at Roland Garros.
The world No 1 subdued a brilliant opening from the 29 year-old Scot to win the final 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-4 and confirm his claims to be among the greatest players ever.
In taking a twelfth Grand Slam the Serb became only the third man ever to hold all four of the Major titles at once, completing the full house with a magnificent display that Murray could not equal.
He has now done something that the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been unable to do – carrying off the non-calendar Grand Slam as Rod Laver and Donald Budge did before him. The Novak Slam lives and could yet become a calendar quartet.
Murray threw everything he had at the first set to shock his opponent, but simply could not keep up that level of ultra-commitment in the face of a defiant Djokovic and a partisan crowd.
Every key indicator went the other way after that – the first serve, second serve, returns and winner count completely in the favour of the World No 1. Murray, forced back behind the baseline, tried to stay calm, tried to get angry – especially with the overhead camera – but found himself comprehensively outplayed.
He should curse the fact that he was born only a week apart from this remarkable athlete, who showed there is clear blue water between himself and the best of the rest, which is what Murray has again proved himself to be in this clay court season.
The Scot at least asked the question at the end with a gutsy late surge, breaking back to 4-5 from 2-5 in the fourth set. Djokovic egged the crowd on as he felt his way to the finish line, and finally clinched it, after a nervy double fault and backhand error on his first two match points.
Murray netted the third with a backhand, and climbed over the net to congratulate him before Djokovic drew a heart on the court and laid down in the middle of it.
Djokovic had walked out to the louder roar from the crowd, with Serbian flags being waved in all corners of Court Philippe Chatrier. Murray was trying to break his record of never having won on his first appearance at a particular Grand Slam final, and it was clear that he would be getting less encouragement on another grey and heavy day.
The Serb played as perfect a return game as could be imagined at the start, breaking to love. However, Murray’s response was majestic, breaking him straight back with a deft backhand lob.
After an easy hold he broke for 3-1 when Djokovic sent a forehand long, although his problem had been whacking too many of them in the net. He actually seemed in shock at the quality coming at him from the other end.
Murray’s only distraction was having French TV interviewer Nelson Monfort removed from his row of support crew but he kept his head to move to 5-3.
He had a spot of luck at 15-0 when umpire Damien Dumusois overruled a line call on second serve and, bravely but erroneously, gave Murray the point as the return went long. The whistling was deafening but again Murray kept his composure and took the set on a third set point when Djokovic netted a backhand.
Murray had never beaten Djokovic before after losing the first set so its importance could hardly be overstated.
But it was always going to be a struggle to maintain that level of intensity and Murray’s aggression and first serve percentage dropped off while Djokovic cut his unforced error count to shift the momentum.
The Scot was looking at his notes at the changeovers but nothing could revive him and his first serve percentage lagged while Djokovic was landing three out of four from the other end.
Murray had never beaten Djokovic before after losing the first set, so the significance of it going his way could hardly be overstated.