History was made Sunday on the red clay of Stade Roland-Garros in Paris, France, as Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic won his 23rd Grand Slam title. The previous mark was held by Rafael Nadal, Djokovic’s career long nemesis. Nadal had to skip the French Open due to injury, but the way the 36-year-old Djokovic is playing, he may never catch him again.
As the match began, perhaps sensing the gravity of the moment, the usually unflappable Serb went down 3-0, and 4-2 to the 24-year-old Norwegian, Casper Ruud. Ruud displayed much fresher legs, as Djokovic was uncharacteristically sluggish and indecisive.
As Novak began to get his feet under him, he capitalized and several unforced errors by Ruud, and pulled himself even in the first set, forcing a first set tiebreak. Djokovic, who owns the best tiebreak record in ATP history, continued that streak and dusted Ruud 7-1 to take the first set in just over one hour.
The first set comeback seemed to buoy the Serb, and from that point on he was the Novak Djokovic everyone knows. The serve started clicking, as he only dropped five points in the entirety of the second set, and he picked up the pace on the forehand, keeping Ruud on his heels. When Djokovic got the much-needed break of serve in the second set, the set, and match were all but over.
Ruud made one last stand in the third set, pushing it to 5-5, but as he has done so often in the past, Djokovic dug deeper. He promptly hit three winners to break Ruud’s serve, and then served out the final game for a final that rook just over 3 hours.
After the last point, Djokovic collapsed onto the red clay before joining his wife, and buddy Tom Brady in celebration.
In the post match presser, Djokovic said this: “It’s no coincidence that I should win my 23rd Grand Slam title here. This has been the hardest tournament for me to win throughout my career. I am beyond fortunate in my life to win 23 Grand Slams. It’s an incredible feeling.”
It is an accomplishment that looked like would never happen. After Covid in 2020, Djokovic was banned from tournaments for refusing the vaccine. Since then, the majors have finally lifted the mandate, with the US Open being the last to allow him to compete.
Now, after taking the Australian Open earlier in the year, and now the French Open, Joker need only win Wimbledon in July and the US open in August to complete the most difficult feat in all sports; the Grand Slam.
To be clear, it is so difficult to win all four majors in one year that tennis counts calendar year Grand Slams as well. Numerous players have had the calendar year Grand Slam, but only the legendary Rod Laver won all four Slams in one year, 1969.
With this victory, Novak Djokovic will return to world number one, be halfway to the Slam, and revved up and ready to tie Roger Federer’s record for most Wimbledon wins on the grass at Wembley Stadium in London. Will he? The money says he does, but either way, it is a triumphant return for a man that was an outcast just a couple of years ago.
Featured image screen grab from embedded YouTube video
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