Djokovic: I'm writing my own history

The 23-time Slam champ talks GOAT debate and longevity after his crowning achievement

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023, final, trophy© Pauline Ballet/FFT
 - Chris Oddo

Sitting at the podium wearing a neatly customised "23" Lacoste jacket, the resplendent Coupe des Mousquetaires to his left, newly minted all-time men's singles Grand Slam title leader Novak Djokovic cut a regal figure in Roland-Garros' main interview room on Sunday night.

Eighteen years after his Grand Slam career began at the 2005 Australian Open, there he was, describing what it was like to claim his record 23rd major title for a packed room of reporters, their hands aloft, eager to get the next question.

Moments like these mark the passage of time in our sport, and on Sunday, Djokovic's iconic triumph represents the latest seismic shift in men's tennis. For nearly 14 years, since Roger Federer recorded his 15th major title at Wimbledon to break Pete Sampras' record in 2009, either Federer (mainly) or Rafael Nadal has held the record.

Now it is singularly Djokovic's, and the best may well yet come.


After his 7-6(1), 6-3, 7-5 victory over Casper Ruud on Sunday in Court Philippe-Chatrier, Djokovic admitted that he couldn't help but think of the implications of winning his 23rd Grand Slam title prior to the Parisian fortnight.

"I knew that going into the tournament, going into the match especially today, that there is history on the line," he said. "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."

He also turned his thoughts to the history of men's tennis, both his and his rivals, and opened up about how he feels about his latest crowning achievement.

GOAT talk

Asked, "How does it feel to be the greatest male player in history?" Djokovic was quick to deflect.

"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 replied.

"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."


Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023, finale© Pauline Ballet/FFT

Djokovic has made it clear: he'll let his tennis continue to do the talking and let the pundits sort out the rest.

"I leave those kind of discussions of who is the greatest to someone else," the Belgrade native said. "I have of course huge faith and confidence and belief in myself and for everything that I am and who I am and what I am capable of doing. So this trophy obviously is another confirmation of the quality of tennis that I'm still able to produce, I feel."

Polyglot Djokovic, who will return to No.1 in the ATP rankings for a ninth time on Monday, also addressed the topic in the French portion of his press conference, and his words reveal a bit more of his views on the matter.

"I prefer to leave it to other people, because there are a lot of people talking, and it's good for our sport to have this historical discussion, but of course I have a lot of self-confidence," he said.

"For me, on a daily basis, I'm the best on the court, because with this state of mind, it's the only state of mind or spirit that can lead to historical results and this trophy. Afterwards, statistics are there, but we have a lot of different factors. It depends on the point of view of a person or the organizations that discuss these things.

"So I don't want to enter in these discussions. I'm writing my own history."

Age just a number - sort of

In addition to vaulting to the top of the all-time men's singles Grand Slam title list, Djokovic also picked off a couple of impressive age-related records. With Sunday's title he becomes the oldest Roland-Garros men's singles champion in history, and he also becomes the first player - male or female - to win more than 10 major singles titles after turning 30.

"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," he said with a smile.

"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."

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

It may be getting more difficult for Djokovic to produce the pristine tennis that he did against Ruud on Sunday, but he's clearly still managing the task with aplomb.

"At the end of the day, you will walk victorious through the finish line, and that's what we have done," he said. "It's amazing. Seeing this trophy here, that also, for me, symbolises a great battle that I had with myself mostly, of course with all the great players in Roland-Garros that is one of the four greatest tournaments, but for me by far the toughest one of the four to win."

'Roger, Rafa defined me'

Asked what it felt like to finally stand a cut above Federer and Nadal in terms of major titles, Djokovic had plenty to say about the important role his major rivals in the shaping of his career.

"The truth is that I have always compared myself to these guys, because those two are the two greatest rivals I ever had in my career," he said. "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 match-ups that we had.

"Countless hours of thinking and analysing and what it takes to win against them on the biggest stage, for me and my team, it was just those two guys were occupying my mind for the last 15 years quite a lot."

Djokovic admits he takes satisfaction from his record-breaking achievement, but stresses that each player has their own story to write.

"It's amazing to know that I'm ahead of both of them in Grand Slams, but at the same time, everyone writes their own history. I still think that everyone has a unique journey that they should embrace and stick to. But of course having the three of us, with Andy [Murray] of course, as well, that we cannot forget, in the last 20 years, it's kind of reached the golden era of the men's tennis, as people like to call it," he said.

"So I'm really grateful to be part of this group of guys."

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

Journey still not over

Reaching such a milestone might make it easier for Djokovic to envisage a finish line for his career. But he remains adamant about the fact that he wants to keep pushing for more.

"Of course journey is still not over," he 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."

Novak Djokovic, wife Jelena, son Stefan, daughter Tara, Roland-Garros 2023 trophy© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT