THE hand of history stretched out across Roland Garros yesterday. It knocked Andy Murray into the dirt. The 29-year-old Scot deserves a better fate, not just for his talent and his obduracy in the face of overwhelming greatness, but for the decency with which he consumes the unpalatable.

He stood last night for the eighth time in the runners-up position in a Grand Slam.

A tennis historian, he will appreciate the magnitude of Novak Djokovic’s achievement of having all four major trophies on his surely creaking mantelpiece.

It will offer Murray no consolation that he was beaten by a contemporary who is now a viable contender for the title of greatest player ever.

It took Djokovic just over three hours to defeat the Scot 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in the French Open final to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four majors.

It was his 12th Grand Slam victory and he now surely has Roger Federer’s haul of 17 in his sights.

Djokovic has earned the right to be mentioned in the same context as both Laver and Federer.

He may yet muscle his way towards the head of the queue for the position of GOAT, greatest of all time.

There was a Caledonian gloom hanging over a dull Roland Garros last night but before considering Scotland’s favourite son, the brilliance of the Serb must be appreciated.

Much has been said about Djokovic’s fitness, his elasticity, his technical brilliance, but it was his mental strength that saw him first blunt the Murray blows and then launch a display of concussive counter punching that confounded the world No 2.

It is strange to recall the days when Djokovic was considered not of the right stuff – criticised by Federer and Andy Roddick for his propensity to withdraw from tournaments – and thought to be vulnerable in the big moments.

This is all now fading history for the player who seems determined to continue making it. This was the Serb’s first French Open title but with Rafael Nadal succumbing to injury and Federer also vulnerable to the aches and strains of an illustrious but draining career, it may only be Murray who stands between him and a record slam title haul.

The truth is that although Rafa is now 30, with a dodgy wrist to add to aching knees, and Federer will celebrate his 35th birthday later this month with a restored knee and a creaking back, they are this morning placed fourth and third in the world respectively.

Murray and Djokovic were contesting their seventh Grand Slam final. With the Nadal-Federer axis teetering and the younger brigade not yet ready to assume power, it would be reasonable to assume that there is still some play in Serb v Scot in those finals.

The problem for the world No 2 is how to address a 5-2 margin in these encounters in favour of Djokovic. He looked to have the answer in the early exchanges on Court Phillipe Chatrier.

Recovering from an early break, Murray came back strongly, breaking back immediately and forcing Djokovic on to a back foot where he stumbled and faltered.

Aided by a powerful serve and an aggressive intent, Murray wrapped up the first set and seemed to be in command.

He will have expected his nemesis to come back into the match. He did with a flurry of punches that saw him grab the next two sets with a worrying ease.

Murray continued to resist but he was undone by a diabolical combination.

First, his serve collapsed. His first serve percentage dropped into the high 30s at one point, eventually levelling out at 50 per cent for the match. It is impossible to hurt, far less knock out Djokovic with such a feeble weapon.

Second, the world No 1 recovered from an inauspicious start that was marked with the sort of tension that was recognised by those who saw him fall to Stanislas Wawrinka in the final last year, incidentally the last losing match in a Grand Slam for Djokovic.

The momentum from Djokovic became increasingly irresistible though Murray did manage to break back late in the fourth set and asked some questions of his opponent in the final stages of the match.

But he was never able to present a convincing case for a Scottish victory after a sensational first set.

Murray had to be at his best to knock out a champion who has now added an aura of invincibility to his more tangible talents. The Dunblane player was aggressive, even defiant, but he was failed by his serve.

Murray was left yet again to wipe away tears in the final of a major. This has been his fate on eight occasions.

But he has also won two

Grand Slams, beating Djokovic in the final of both Wimbledon

in 2013 and the US Open of 2012, as well as taking Olympic gold by beating both Djokovic and Federer in London.

He knows how it is to be knocked down. But he knows too that he always gets back up. This may assuage the pain. But not yet, not last night.