Djokovic in rarefied air with third Paris crown

 - Dan Imhoff

The Serbian returns to No.1 and claims a men's all-time record 23rd major against Ruud

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023, final, trophy© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Novak Djokovic is soaking in the view alone from the top for the first time after withstanding Casper Ruud for a record 23rd major title in Paris on Sunday.

Underdogs hold a rare but distinguished record of denying the Serbian with history on the line.

But after a hasty start, Ruud was unable to join that short list and halt the indomitable 36-year-old’s ascent.

Djokovic’s 7-6(1), 6-2, 7-5, triumph made him the first man in history to secure at least three titles at each of the four majors.

Equalling Serena

He ties Serena Williams’ haul and could equal Margaret Court’s mark with an eighth Wimbledon crown next month.

“I am delighted to be here in this very specific moment in my career,” Djokovic said on court.

“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 honoured to share it on this special court.”


Victory elevates Djokovic clear of his greatest rival Rafael Nadal for most major titles and returns him to world No.1.

Eleven of those Grand Slam trophies have come in his 30s, more than any other player to have triumphed in that age bracket.

'I had the power to create my own destiny'

“The four biggest tournaments we have in our sport and every single player dreams of being on this stage and winning at least once in their career,” Djokovic said. “I’ve been fortunate to win 23 times.

“I’d like to send a message to every young person out there – tennis, sports, or anything else. I was a seven-year-old dreaming about winning Wimbledon. I’m beyond grateful to be standing here.

“I had the power to create my own destiny. I visualise everything in my life and feel it with every cell in my body. Forget about what happened in the past and if you want a better future you create it.”

Ruud was the first to tip his hat to his conqueror. Despite having come up short for the second year running in his bid to deliver Norway its first major champion, he accepted he had fallen to the greatest.

“Another day, another record for you,” Ruud said. “Another day you rewrite tennis history. It’s tough to explain how incredible it is, how good you are, what an inspiration you are to so many around the world.”

Casper Ruud, Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023, final© Julien Crosnier/FFT

His vanquished semi-finalist, Alexander Zverev, conceded the fourth seed entered this match a rank outsider – as he did in last year’s final against Nadal – but gave him a glimmer of hope given the weight of history had foiled Djokovic before.

In the 2021 US Open final, the top seed fell one match shy of becoming the first man since Rod Laver to complete the calendar Grand Slam against Daniil Medvedev.

In 2015, Djokovic removed Nadal from the picture only for Stan Wawrinka to deny him a maiden Roland-Garros in his third final.

The 24-year-old had worked his way into contention this fortnight and while yet to take a set off his more fancied foe in four previous encounters, he made the more impressive start as dark clouds closed in above.

An overcooked overhead cost Djokovic his opening service game and he soon trailed the free-swinging fourth seed 1-4.

Finding venom on the forehand and unafraid to close at net, this was arguably the highest-level set Ruud had played in three major finals.

With Djokovic serving to stay in it, another cautious overhead came back to haunt him when he failed to deal with the Norwegian’s tweener, but all was not lost.

Delivered in the 82nd minute, a near-perfect tiebreak came as a telling blow.

Djokovic was an imposing 14-3 after taking the first set in a Grand Slam final, but two of those defeats came on this court.

If Ruud was to become the third in Paris he needed to shake the disappointment, and fast.

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023, final© Julien Crosnier/FFT

The Serbian quickly raced to a 3-0 lead and while the Norwegian fended off a pair of set points on serve, a love hold soon opened up a two-set advantage.

It was a momentous summit for Ruud to scale from here.

Sensing his moment, Djokovic broke to love in the 11th game of the third set and fell prone on his back after sealing it in three hours and 13 minutes.

At 36 years and 20 days he becomes the oldest Roland-Garros men's champion in history and for the third time in his career, he moves halfway to the elusive calendar Grand Slam.

Novak Djokovic, family, box, clan, Roland-Garros 2023, final© Cédric Lecocq/FFT