Grand Slam King Djokovic wins 23rd crown by conquering Ruud at French Open

By Reuters   June 11, 2023 | 06:03 pm PT
Grand Slam King Djokovic wins 23rd crown by conquering Ruud at French Open
Serbia's Novak Djokovic kisses the trophy after winning the French Open on June 11, 2023. Photo by Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
Unstoppable Novak Djokovic roared to a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title at the French Open to stand alone at the summit of men's tennis with a victory over Casper Ruud in the final.

The 36-year-old Serbian drew level with Rafa Nadal on 22 by bagging the Australian Open crown in January and he leapfrogged the injured King of Clay in his own backyard to claim his third Roland Garros title after triumphs in 2016 and 2021.

On an historic day on Court Philippe Chatrier, Djokovic won his 21st consecutive Grand Slam tournament match to become the only man to capture each of the four majors - Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open - at least three times.

"Obviously a Grand Slam is a Grand Slam," said Djokovic, who moved level with women's great Serena Williams on 23 major titles and sits one behind Margaret Court who has 24.

"The four biggest tournaments that we have in our sport. Every single player dreams of being on this stage and winning the trophy at least once in their career.

"I'm beyond fortunate in my life to win it 23 times, it's an incredible feeling."

Djokovic's latest Paris triumph - which, on statistics alone, settled the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) debate - came in his seventh final at the venue and he entered Sunday's match with a 2-4 win-loss record.

"It's no coincidence that I won the 23rd Grand Slam here in Paris, because this tournament was really in my entire career the toughest to win.

"A lot of emotions here on this court, also off the court."

Djokovic also eclipsed Nadal as the oldest champion in Paris after a tough fortnight where he shrugged off a heated political row following his comments on Kosovo and saw off the challenge of ailing top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals.

"Many congrats on this amazing achievement...," 14-times Roland Garros champion Nadal tweeted as congratulations poured in. "23 is a number that just a few years back was impossible to think about, and you made it!

"Enjoy it with your family and team."

What turned into a one-sided final got off to a shaky start for the Serbian.

He struggled to find his range and rhythm early on and dropped his opening service game, as fourth seed Ruud made a solid start in his bid to grab a first victory over the third seed in his fifth attempt by blazing away to a 4-1 lead.

Ruud, runner-up to Nadal in Paris last year and Alcaraz at the U.S. Open, pegged Djokovic back with his monster forehands but missed an overhead shot at the net to allow his opponent to break back and eventually level at 4-4.

Soccer superstars Kylian Mbappe and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were among a host of celebrities in a packed stadium that roared its approval when Ruud volleyed home a winner after producing a superb 'tweener'.

Vintage form

Djokovic, who took a tumble earlier and was clearly feeling the heat and humidity at 5-6, ranted at the umpire over what he perceived to be quick starts of the clock at changeovers but he regained composure to force a tiebreak that he dominated.

He broke early in the second set showing vintage form and started to put the squeeze on world number four Ruud, whose dreams of a maiden major appeared to fade fast as Djokovic doubled his advantage in the contest.

Djokovic served himself out of trouble to level at 4-4 and hit two aces to make it 5-5 in the third set before setting up three breakpoints with a fiery crosscourt winner and edging ahead with a backhand rocket.

Having got his nose in front, Djokovic closed out the win in another strong service game on his second championship point and dropped to the clay before soaking up the applause.

He continued his celebrations by climbing up to his players' box and shared hugs with his family. He then sported a specially made jacket with the number 23 displayed on it, just like he did at Melbourne Park with 22.

Victory meant Djokovic has won the first two Grand Slams in a year for a third time after similar runs in 2016 and 2021.

"Another day, another record and another day you rewrite tennis history," Ruud said, addressing a beaming Djokovic. "It's tough to explain how incredible it is, how good you are and what an inspiration you are to people around the world.

"This tastes best of them all, so congratulations. I'm happy that I'm the first one to congratulate you from the stage."

Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei partnered China's Wang Xinyu to the women's doubles crown as the pair outclassed 10th seeds Taylor Townsend and Leylah Fernandez 1-6 7-6 (5) 6-1.

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