Djokovic Makes History, Beats Ruud For 23rd Slam, 3rd Career Slam At French Open
The records continue to pile up for Novak Djokovic and Sunday he became the all-time leader in Grand Slam titles for men besting Casper Ruud 7-6(1), 6-3, 7-5 to win his 23rd Slam and third French Open title.
“I am delighted to be here in this very specific moment in my career,” Djokovic told the crowd which included NFL great Tom Brady who saw a guest in his box.
“It is no coincidence winning my 23rd Grand Slam here in Paris. This tournament has always been the hardest for me to win, so I am very emotional right now.
“This means I a lot. I have experienced a lot of emotions on this court and I’m really proud and honored to share it on this special court.”
Djokovic entered the event deadlocked with the injured Rafael Nadal at 22 Grand Slams titles apiece, but of the first time in his career the Serb has the outright lead and claim to the throne, and he did it on Nadal’s home 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,” Djokovic said.
“So I feel like each great champion of his own generation has left a huge mark, a legacy, and paved the way for us to be able to play this sport in such a great stage worldwide.”
Ruud actually began the match the better player, cracking his serve and forehand, taking it to Djokovic. The Norwegian built a 3-0 lead which included a marathon 12-minute second games. Djokovic got his serve going which got his return game going and from 4-1 down it was 4-all with Ruud serving 0-30.
Ruud managed to stem the tide but in the breaker Djokovic — as he’s done all event — locked down and didn’t make an error, hitting four winner to take the 90-minute opener.
Ruud couldn’t have played much better and yet he still lost the opener, his 9th straight set loss to the Serb.
And it didn’t get an better. After the first set disappointment, Ruud came out deflated in the second and Djokovic quickly broke going up 3-0, and that was that.
Ruud pushed Djokovic more in the third, but serving 4-5 Djokovic would only lose one more point.
“He kind of pressures you in a way to go for more risks,” Ruud said. “That is tough because obviously against him you want to try to play as aggressive as possible, because if you’re too much on the defence he’ll just control the game.”
Ruud falls to 0-3 in Grand Slam finals, but at least at the French, this was his best effort in the title match. He had real chances to take the first set.
“I think this is maybe the most important final that I reached, honestly,” Ruud stated.
“Because first time was, yes, very cool. But here I sort of proved that whatever happened last year is just not like a one-time case. Even for next year when we come back to Roland Garros, people are going to look, ‘Oh, Casper didn’t just make one final but he made it twice’.
“Probably going to plant some respect in my opponents’ eyes and hopefully I can build on that, and one day I’m gonna try to obviously aim for a Slam title.”
Djokovic also walks away with a third Career Slam, a feat no other man has accomplished.
“I knew that going into the tournament, going into the match especially today, that there is history on the line,” said Djokovic. “But I try to focus my attention and my thoughts into preparing for this match in the best way possible to win like any other match.”
At 36 and 20 days, he passes Nadal to become the oldest French Open champion.
“I also am aware that even though I don’t like to think about the age or age is just a number, it sounds like a cliché, but I really feel age is just a number in my case,” added Djokovic.
“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. Maybe five to 10 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.”
Djokovic, who also returns to No. 1, is now tied with Serena and just one Slam title away from match the overall all-time record of Margaret Court’s 24.
“Of course journey is still not over,” Djokovic said. “I feel if I’m winning slams, why even think about ending the career that already has been going on for 20 years.
“I still feel motivated, I still feel inspired to play the best tennis on these tournaments the most, Grand Slams. Those are the ones that count I guess the most in history of our sport.
“I look forward already to Wimbledon.”
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