Novak Djokovic stated his objective for years. His drive. His inspiration. Djokovic’s goal was to win the greatest championships on his sport’s biggest stages, and now he’s alone, ahead of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and every other player.
Djokovic could wait 30 minutes to fix his strokes in the French Open final if he could wait this long to hold this record. After a rough start in thick, humid air and gloomy skies Sunday, he asserted himself. After then, Court Philippe Chatrier opponent Casper Ruud was doomed.
Djokovic defeated Ruud 7-6 (1), 6-3, 7-5 to win his 23rd Grand Slam singles title, breaking a tie with Nadal and going three ahead of Federer.
Djokovic has three French Open championships, including 2016 and 2021. At the 2008 Australian Open, he won his first of 10 titles, seven from Wimbledon and three from the U.S. Open.
“I knew that going into the tournament, going into the match, especially today, that there is history on the line,” Djokovic said, wearing a red jacket with “23” stitched on the chest. “Of course I thought about the finish line that is right there and that one more match is needed to win a trophy—a historic one.”
He is halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam, which no man has done since Rod Laver in 1969. In 2021, Djokovic won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open title match before losing to Daniil Medvedev.
Djokovic will renew that effort at Wimbledon.
“He has this software in his head that he can switch (on) when a Grand Slam comes,” said his coach, Goran Ivanisevic. He was better, more motivated, and more hungry when we arrived. He improved daily.”
Federer has 16 Slams, Nadal nine, Djokovic one entering 2011.
“Pretty decent 12 years, I must say, for me,” Djokovic smiled.
He won 11 of the previous 20 Slams, a fantastic record given he missed two majors due to COVID-19. Djokovic was deported in January 2021 before the Australian Open, and a regulation that has since been repealed prevented him from flying to the U.S. before last year’s U.S. Open.
Djokovic equals Serena Williams, who retired last year, as the most successful player in the Open era, which started in 1968. Margaret Court won some of her record 24 Slams as an amateur.
The Serb is the oldest singles champion at Roland Garros, which is known for its sluggish red clay courts.
A year ago in Paris, Nadal won his 22nd major. He had arthroscopic hip surgery on June 2 after being out since January.
“Many congrats on this amazing achievement,” Nadal tweeted immediately after the final. “23 was unthinkable a few years ago, and you made it!”
Djokovic will replace Carlos Alcaraz as ATP No. 1 on Monday after his Sunday win. Djokovic has spent more weeks at the top than any player since computerized tennis rankings began 50 years ago.
On Thursday, Djokovic defeated 20-year-old Spaniard Alcaraz in two exciting sets. Alcaraz’s final two sets were 6-1, 6-1.
Ruud, a 24-year-old Norwegian, reached his third Slam final in five competitions, however he is 0-3. He fell to Nadal at the French Open last year and Alcaraz in the U.S. Open last September.
In his 34th major final, Djokovic started slowly, maybe because of the stakes.
Ruud stated his opponent may be worried or stressed.
But by the end of the first set, Djokovic was positively Djokovic-esque, claiming 12 of the final 13 points of the match, most accompanied by supporters’ loud shouts of his two-syllable moniker, “No-le!”
Djokovic sprawled on his back after Ruud’s last error.
Ruud added, “He kind of pressures you to go for more risks, and that’s tough. “He stepped up like he knows.”
Djokovic missed forehands into the net, wide, and long, then shanked an overhead from near the net beyond the other baseline to lose 2-0.
Djokovic missed another overhead later in the match.
Djokovic’s struggles helped Ruud lead 4-1. Djokovic had 13 unforced mistakes, Ruud four.
Djokovic recovered from 18 unforced mistakes in the opening set with 14 in the subsequent two sets.
Ruud then shanked an overhead, ending a 29-stroke point. Djokovic shook his right fist after his first serve break made it 4-3.
“Devastating,” said Ruud.
Djokovic dominated the tiebreaker. He thrives in high-stakes situations.
Ruud added, “He just becomes like a wall.”
Djokovic had four winners and zero unforced mistakes from 1-7.
That made his tiebreaker record 308-162, a.655 winning %. In 2023, Djokovic is 15-4, including 6-0 in Paris, with zero unforced mistakes in 55 points.
“He steps up,” Ruud remarked. “He plays ridiculous defense or beautiful winners. No errors.
That performance alone lasted 1 hour, 21 minutes and was filled of long dialogues that could inspire entire novels. 20, 25, 29 strokes. Ruud won with a back-to-the-net, between-the-legs shot. Djokovic fell behind the baseline, staining his red shirt, blue shorts, and skin with rust-colored clay.
Djokovic’s defense scrambling, straining, bending, and twisting evident on the scoreboard. All lengthy points drain an opponent’s energy and will.
Djokovic is undisputed in Grand Slam titles.
Ruud replied, “But it’s very, very impressive.”
Djokovic repeatedly poked his right index finger into his temple after breaking to lead 3-0 in the second set. He turned to face his box in the stands, where Ivanisevic, Djokovic’s wife, two children, parents, agent, and seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady were.
The NFL’s “Greatest Of All Time” (GOAT) is retired Brady, and the tennis world has debated whether Djokovic, Nadal, or Federer merits the title.
“Who is the greatest?” I leave to others. At his press conference, Djokovic stated, “Of course, huge faith and confidence and belief (in) myself and for everything that I am and who I am and what I am capable of doing.” “This trophy obviously is another confirmation of the quality of tennis that I’m still able to produce, I feel.”