Match Report

Djokovic Wins Roland Garros For Historic 23rd Major Title

Serbian defeats Ruud to move clear of his great rival Nadal
June 11, 2023
Novak Djokovic celebrates his record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title with wife Jelena, daughter Tara and son Stefan.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic celebrates his record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title with wife Jelena, daughter Tara and son Stefan. By Andy West

Novak Djokovic forged a new frontier in men’s tennis Sunday at Roland Garros, where the Serbian great defeated Casper Ruud 7-6(1), 6-3, 7-5 to claim a record 23rd major title.

Djokovic overcame a strong start from Ruud on Court Philippe-Chatrier to seal his historic victory. The third seed delivered a high-class tie-break display to claim a first set in which he had trailed 1-4 before producing some of his purest hitting of the fortnight in the second and third en route to a three-hour, 13-minute triumph.

“Obviously a Grand Slam is a Grand Slam,” said Djokovic at the trophy ceremony. “The four biggest tournaments that we have in our sport. Every single player dreams of being on this stage and winning the trophy at least once in their career. I’m beyond fortunate in my life to win 23 times, it’s an incredible feeling.”

Most Grand Slam Men's Singles Titles (All-Time)

Novak Djokovic
Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer
Pete Sampras
Roy Emerson
Bjorn Borg
Rod Laver

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With his win, the three-time Roland Garros titlist Djokovic also reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings from Carlos Alcaraz, eclipsed Rafael Nadal as the oldest Roland Garros champion at the age of 36 years and 20 days and became the first man to win all four Grand Slam events at least three times.

<a href=''>Novak Djokovic</a>

With history on the line, an expectant crowd that included actor Hugh Grant, NFL legend Tom Brady (who sat in Djokovic's player's box) and football stars Kylian Mpabbe, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Olivier Giroud gathered in Paris, and the Serbian did not disappoint.

After nullifying Ruud’s early charge, Djokovic barely looked back on the way to extending his lead in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series to 5-0. He outhit the fourth seed by 52 winners to 31 while winning 80 per cent (59/74) of points behind his first serve.

Playing in his third championship match in the past five major tournaments, Ruud battled well but was unable to maintain his scintillating start. The 24-year-old, who also reached finals at Roland Garros and the US Open in 2022, did not win more than two points in a return game after 4-3 in the first set as Djokovic ruthlessly shut down his opponent’s efforts to rally.

“Another day, another record for you,” said Ruud, when addressing Djokovic at the trophy ceremony. “And another day you rewrite tennis history. It’s tough to explain how incredible it is and how good you are, and what an inspiration you are to so many people around the world.

“Congratulations to you and your team. I know this tastes probably the best out of all [of your major titles]... I’m happy I’m the first one to congratulate you here, from this stage.”

Set One, Djokovic 7-6(1)

With NFL legend Brady cheering him on from his player’s box, Djokovic saved two break points with a pair of hammered forehands but then miscued an overhead long to hand Ruud an early break in an epic second game that featured five deuces. Djokovic reclaimed the break in the seventh game after the Norwegian returned the favour by netting a smash of his own.

<a href=''>Novak Djokovic</a>
NFL legend Tom Brady congratulates Novak Djokovic after his historic Roland Garros triumph on Sunday in Paris. Photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour.

The fourth-seeded Ruud deployed plenty of variety in his groundstrokes to disrupt Djokovic’s rhythm, powering many of them with ferocious power but also sending back a series of looping balls that regularly drew errors from the Serbian. Djokovic drastically reduced his mistakes as the set wore on, however, and continued his stunning form in tie-breaks to move ahead.

Across the six tie-breaks he has played at Roland Garros this year, Djokovic is now 42-13 in points having made 0 unforced errors. The way he stepped up on return was crucial to him securing his latest tie-break win as he notched three mini-breaks to move to 9-0 in sets at Tour-level against Ruud. According to Infosys ATP Stats, Djokovic has moved into the lead on the Open Era leaderboard for tie-break winning percentage with his streak at Roland Garros.

Set Two, Djokovic 6-3

As in his earlier wins against Marton Fucsovics and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Paris, the early tie-break victory appeared to help Djokovic zone in as he maintained his stellar level in the early stages of the second set. He raced to a 3-0 lead by consistently winning the extended exchanges against Ruud, redirecting the Norwegian’s power to devastating effect.

Ruud battled admirably to regain his foothold in a match that looked to be slipping away from him rapidly, but Djokovic’s break in the second game proved enough for him to move further clear. The Serbian dropped just five points behind his serve in the second set as his precise delivery pinned Ruud back and restricted the 10-time ATP Tour titlist’s opportunities to forge a comeback.

Set Three, Djokovic 7-5

Djokovic looked to be continuing his dominance in the third set and threatened an early breakthrough after bringing up 30/40 on Ruud’s serve with a huge forehand winner. The Norwegian dialled in behind serve to fend off the danger, however, and he continued to strike fiercely off both wings to keep alive his hopes of kick-starting a comeback.

Those hopes faded in the 11th game, however, when Djokovic delivered a string of razor-sharp returns before crushing a backhand cross-court winner at 0/40 to break Ruud and move to the brink of history. Although the Norwegian snapped an 11-point winning streak for Djokovic by saving the first of three match points in the following game, he then pushed a forehand wide, prompting an emotional Djokovic to fall backwards onto the Parisian clay.

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