Novak Djokovic hoisted a 23rd trophy at one of the four Grand Slam tournaments on Sunday after he beat Casper Ruud in straight sets to win the 2023 French Open.
The 36-year-old Serb won 7-6, 6-3, 7-5 in three hours and 13 minutes to become the most successful male player in history.
He also notched up the accolade as the only man to have won at least three titles in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York.
He was presented with the Coupe des Mousquetaires by Yannick Noah, the last Frenchman to win the title in Paris 40 years ago.
Turning to the 63-year-old, he said:
“I was very young when you finished your career and it’s a great honour to have you here.”
And addressing the packed centre court, he added:
“I am very proud to be here. This title has been the most difficult for me to win.”
Playing in his 34th Grand Slam tournament final, Djokovic was deemed the hot favourite to outmuscle Ruud who lost in last year’s showdown to Nadal.
But the 24-year-old Norwegian captured Djokovic’s first service game and held firm until trying to take a 5-2 lead.
Djokovic reclaimed the break and recovered to 4-4 with his trademark precision and tenacious defence.
It was a tiebreak only in name. Djokovic claimed it seven points to one to seize the early advantage after a gruelling opener lasting 90 minutes.
By comparison, the second set was quickfire once Djokovic had the early break.
His strokes were more fluid and he was clocking up aces in every service game. His seventh helped him to 4-1. The forehand was also assuming an ominous ferocity. .
Ruud saved two set points when he was serving at 2-5 down but Djokovic ploughed on serenely.
A Ruud backhand slice into the net brought Djokovic three set points and history was a tad closer with another backhand winner down the line from Djokovic to give him the set 6-3.
In the third set, it was a dream coda for Djokovic. From 5-5, he won seven consecutive points including a 24th and 25th forehand winner – to take Ruud’s service and fashion three match points.
Ruud staved off the end only momentarily. Djokovic celebrated his record status falling to the floor and spreading his arms out wide.
By the time he rose, Ruud had crossed the net to embrace him.
“I think we should start with Novak,”
“Another day, another record. It is tough to explain how good you are and how much of an inspiration you are.”Said Ruud after receiving his runner-up trophy from Noah.