Novak Djokovic wins French Open, record 23rd Grand Slam men’s singles title
Novak Djokovic won the French Open for his 23rd Grand Slam singles title, breaking the men’s record he shared with Rafael Nadal, a record that he may now own for a very long time.
Djokovic, a 36-year-old from Serbia, beat Norwegian Casper Ruud 7-6 (1), 6-3, 7-5 in Sunday’s final at Roland Garros. He began his victory speech in French, saying it was special to break the record at the major that has been the most difficult for him to win.
“I waited for this moment and worked really, really hard to eventually get a shot at the historic Grand Slam title,” he said. “I’m obviously overwhelmed with most beautiful emotions at the moment but also huge relief because so much tension, so much intensity, so much, I guess, pressure and expectations.”
Djokovic also broke Nadal’s record as the oldest French Open singles champion. He became the first man to win all four tennis majors at least three times, joining three women who did so (Serena Williams, Steffi Graf and Margaret Court).
“I don’t want to say that I am the greatest, because I feel, I’ve said it before, it’s disrespectful towards all the great champions in different eras of our sport that was played in completely different way than it is played today,” he said. “I leave those kind of discussions of who is the greatest to someone else.”
When Djokovic lost his first Grand Slam final -- the 2007 U.S. Open to Roger Federer -- he noted that time was on his side as he sought to improve his game to overtake Federer (five years older) and Nadal (one year older).
“I have said it before many times that they have actually defined me as a player, and all the success that I have, they have contributed to it, in a way, because of the rivalries and the matchups that we had,” he said. “Those two guys were occupying my mind for the last 15 years quite a lot. In a professional sense.”
Djokovic won his first major at the 2008 Australian Open -- his first of a record 10 Australian Open titles. It took him another three years to win his second major. By then a gulf separated Nadal (nine majors) and Federer (16) from him.
But starting in 2011, Djokovic has won 22 of his last 46 major starts to pass them both while also fending off players born in the 1990s and 2000s. Such as 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who suffered full-body cramps against Djokovic in Friday’s semifinals and attributed them to the pressure of facing the Grand Slam king.
After Sunday’s final, Djokovic’s coach, 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, borrowed from 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick.
"[Djokovic] takes the legs, then he takes your soul, then he dig your grave and you have a funeral and you’re dead,” Ivanisevic said.
Federer retired with 20 titles last year. Nadal, a record 14-time French Open champion, missed this year’s tournament due to a hip injury that required surgery that will force him to also miss Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He said he plans to make 2024 his farewell year.
“23 is a number that just a few years back was imposible to think about, and you made it!” Nadal posted on social media five minutes after Djokovic was in a position most familiar to Nadal -- on his back on the red clay of Court Philippe Chatrier in a championship celebration.
No active man other than Djokovic or Nadal has more than three major titles. No active man younger than 36 has more than one major title.
For the third time, Djokovic has won the first two majors in the year, stoking talk of a possible calendar Grand Slam (winning all four majors in one year). Graf is the only singles player to accomplish that in the last 50 years.
“Truth of the matter is, and reality is, my body is responding differently, so I have to deal with more things physically than I have had maybe in the past,” Djokovic said. “Maybe five to ten years ago I was recovering much quicker or just didn’t feel as much pain in the body and the beating that I’m feeling today.”
He will likely go into Wimbledon in three weeks as an overwhelming favorite, having won it four times in a row and seven times overall. He is one shy of Federer’s men’s records there for total titles and consecutive titles.
A calendar Slam would also mean that Djokovic breaks the overall record for major singles titles. He is now tied with Williams and one behind Court, who accumulated some of her titles before the professional era began in 1968.
“Another day, another record for you,” Ruud said in his runner-up speech. “This tastes probably the best out of all.”
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