© Reuters. Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – June 11, 2023 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the final against Norway’s Casper Ruud REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
By Shrivathsa Sridhar and Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic won a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title at the French Open on Sunday to stand alone at the summit of men’s tennis with a 7-6(1) 6-3 7-5 victory over fourth seed Casper Ruud in the final.
The 36-year-old Serb drew level with Rafa Nadal on 22 by capturing the Australian Open title 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 a historic day on Court Philippe Chatrier, Djokovic won his 21st consecutive Grand Slam tournament match to become the only man to bag each of the four majors – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open – at least three times.
He also eclipsed Nadal as the oldest champion in Paris after a testing fortnight where he shrugged off a heated political row after his comments on Kosovo and saw off the challenge of ailing top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals.
What turned into a one-sided final got off to a shaky start for the Serb.
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 secure a first win over the Serbian 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 allow his opponent to break back and eventually level at 4-4.
Soccer superstars Kylian Mbappe and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were among a packed stadium that roared its approval when Ruud volleyed home a winner after a superb ‘tweener’.
Djokovic, who took a tumble earlier and was clearly feeling the heat and humidity at 5-6, ranted https://www.reuters.com/sports/tennis/no-rush-start-clock-changeover-djokovic-argues-with-umpire-2023-06-11/ 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.
“Many congrats on this amazing achievement @DjokerNole,” 14-times Roland Garros champion Nadal tweeted. “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.”