Great athletes leave records in their path, depositing them like waves on the shore, creating a high-water mark for others to reach for or wash away.
With his victory over Casper Ruud in the French Open final (7-6 (7-1) 6-3 7-5), Novak Djokovic broke the previous record for the most grand slam titles held by a man held by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and now himself.
Finally, after years of the record shifting among the “Big Three,” Djokovic was able to secure it. While Nadal will retire at the end of next year due to ailments that prevented him from competing at this year’s French Open, Federer retired last year, and their dominance in major slams shows no signs of abating.
Djokovic always appeared to be in charge, even though Ruud broke him in his first service game of the match. This was especially true after he won a delicately composed, taxing first set that lasted almost 90 minutes.
Two sets later, Djokovic reaffirmed his title as the greatest male tennis player of all time in front of other outstanding athletes like Tom Brady, Kylian Mbappé, and Zlatan Ibrahimovi.
Wearing a personalized hoodie with “23” embroidered on the chest, Novak Djokovic first addressed the crowd in French before addressing Ruud in English and praising him as “one of the best personalities on the tour.”
“My team, my family, my kids, my parents, everyone is here,” he continued, “except for my two brothers, who I love very much but who aren’t here.” You are aware of the difficulties we have faced every day.
I’m aware that I can be a nightmare. First of all, I want to thank you for your tolerance and patience, which stands out. I really tortured you, so thank you for being my pillar of support and for having faith in me.
The greatest Djokovic has gradually entered the discussion of the greatest players of all time, his first grand slam victories capping a decade of domination by Nadal and Federer when he seemed destined to remain the outcast, the unhappy member of the same generation as them.
But gradually, as their abilities diminished and injuries set in, Djokovic began to take over as the top player on the tour. His level of fitness, serve return, and capacity to force his adversaries to take one more shot made him nearly untouchable.
Congratulations on this fantastic accomplishment, Nadal tweeted following the game. “23 is a number that seemed unthinkable only a few years ago, and you did it! Enjoy it with your family and team.
Whereas Federer and Nadal are characterized by one another, their competition and friendship entwined, Djokovic inhabits a position all his own, admired but perhaps not as much as the other two members of the “Big Three.”
He has faced controversy at some point in his career. He might have already won 23 grand slams if it weren’t for his decision to forego getting immunized against Covid-19. As a result of the countries’ demands that visitors be immunized against the virus, he was deported from Australia before the Australian Open in 2022 and missed the US Open that same year.
He now owns more than simply grand slam records. He surpassed Steffi Graff in February to set a new record for the most weeks at the top of the world rankings, 387. He returns to the top rank in the world after winning this year’s French Open. Federer, on the other hand, has topped the rankings for 237 straight weeks, which is a record for men.
Throughout their professional lives, each of the “Big Three” has developed a particular association with a certain surface: Federer with grass and Wimbledon, Nadal with clay and Roland Garros, and Djokovic with the hard courts of the US Open and Australian Open.
But by triumphing on Sunday, Djokovic proved his superiority across the board and made history by becoming the first man to have won each grand slam at least three times. The one feat that has so far evaded Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal is the “Calendar Slam,” which involves winning all four major tournaments in a calendar year. With victory, Djokovic will be halfway there. Additionally, he won the French Open at the oldest age ever.
A strong beginning from Ruud
Despite all the hype surrounding Djokovic prior to the match, Ruud got off to a fantastic start, putting together a service hold to love, breaking the Serb at the third attempt in the first service game, and quickly establishing a 3-0 lead.
However, Djokovic showed the skills that have propelled him to the top of the sport by breaking back following a 28-shot rally and then holding, despite giving up a break point, to equal the match at 4-4.
Although the tide seemed to be turning, Ruud held on, getting the boisterous audience to stand up with a between-the-legs shot that ultimately won the point. As a result, the first set stayed delicately balanced all the way to a tiebreak.
In the tiebreak, Djokovic’s performance improved as the stakes rose. Ruud did nothing wrong and rarely committed any errors, but Djokovic romped to a 7-1 victory to claim the set after an hour and 21 minutes. His groundstrokes appeared to be significantly more forceful, his movement appeared slightly sharper, and he committed no unforced errors.
Ruud appeared dejected as he went out onto the court and dropped the first three games after coming so close to striking during the lengthy opening set.
The crowd’s enthusiasm also vanished, as if they were coming to terms with the fact that Djokovic was simply too strong for anyone to challenge him.
Then, with Ruud stranded on the opposing side of the court, Djokovic broke to lead by two sets, claiming the set with a backhand winner down the line.
Ruud nonetheless resisted, saving a break point early in the third set and creating a promising 0-30 situation with Djokovic serving and down 3-4. However, there wasn’t much he could do in the final set against his opponent’s 22 wins.
Late in the third set, Djokovic eventually broke Ruud to go up 6-5. He then held on to finish the memorable triumph as he collapsed to the ground, enjoying a record-breaking day.