Novak Djokovic made history on Sunday, June 11, 2023, by winning his 23rd Grand Slam title at the French Open, breaking the record he shared with Rafael Nadal for the most major singles trophies in the history of men’s tennis. The Serbian star defeated Casper Ruud, a rising star from Norway, in three sets, 7-6 (1), 6-3, 7-5, in a thrilling final that lasted three hours and 15 minutes. Djokovic, who turned 36 last month, became the first man ever to win at least three titles at each of the four Grand Slam tournaments, a feat that showcases his versatility and dominance on all surfaces. He also drew level with Serena Williams on the all-time list of singles major winners, and could equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 at Wimbledon next month.
The victory was especially sweet for Djokovic, who had endured a difficult start to the year, struggling with an abdominal injury that hampered his performance at the Australian Open, where he nonetheless managed to claim his record-extending 10th title. He then lost to Daniil Medvedev in the final of the Miami Open, and suffered a shock defeat to Aslan Karatsev in the semifinals of the Serbia Open. But Djokovic bounced back in style at the French Open, where he had previously won two titles in 2016 and 2021. He dropped only one set en route the final, beating the likes of Karen Khachanov, and Carlos Alcaraz along the way. He also extended his winning streak at Grand Slam tournaments to 21 matches, having won the last four majors he entered.
In the final, he faced Ruud, a 23-year-old who had impressed with his powerful forehand and solid baseline game. Ruud had reached his third Grand Slam final, having lost to Nadal at Roland Garros last year, and to Alcaraz at the US Open. The match was a tense and tight affair, with both players trading breaks and holding serve until 5-5 in the first set. Djokovic then raised his level and broke Ruud with a series of superb groundstrokes, before closing out the set in a tiebreak. He carried the momentum into the second set, breaking Ruud twice and holding his own serve comfortably to take a two-set lead. Ruud refused to give up and fought back in the third set, breaking Djokovic early, and holding a 4-2 lead. But Djokovic showed his resilience and experience, breaking back and saving two break points in a crucial eighth game. He then broke Ruud again in the 11th game with a stunning backhand winner down the line, before serving out the match and falling to his knees in celebration.
Djokovic lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy for the third time in his career, and received a standing ovation from the crowd at Court Philippe-Chatrier. He thanked his team, his family and his fans for their support, and praised Ruud for his performance and potential. “I’m very happy and proud of this achievement. It was a very tough match against a great opponent. Casper played a fantastic tournament and I’m sure he will have many more chances to win this title in the future,” Djokovic said. He also acknowledged the significance of breaking Nadal’s record, saying that he had always looked up to him as a role model and a rival. “Rafa is one of my greatest friends and rivals. We have shared so many memorable moments on this court and others. He is an amazing champion and a legend of our sport. To surpass him in Grand Slam titles is something I never thought I could do; but I always believed in myself and worked hard to achieve my dreams,” Djokovic said.
With this historic win, Djokovic cemented his status as one of the greatest players of all time, if not the greatest. He has now won more Grand Slam titles than any other man in history, more ATP Masters titles than any other player in history (38), more ATP year-end championships than any other player (six), more weeks at world number one than any other player (388), and more prize money than any other player in history ($169 million). He has also achieved feats that no other player has ever done, such as holding all four Grand Slam titles at once in 2015-2016, completing the career Golden Masters twice by winning all nine ATP Masters events, and winning the Olympic bronze medal in singles, and the Davis Cup for Serbia.
Djokovic will now turn his attention to Wimbledon, where he has won seven titles, and is the defending champion. He will aim to extend his Grand Slam record and equal Court’s mark of 24 majors. He will also have a chance to complete the calendar Grand Slam, something that no man has done since Rod Laver in 1969, and the Golden Slam, which would include winning the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. Djokovic has already proven that he can overcome any challenge and achieve any goal. He has shown that he has no limits, and that everything is possible. He has shown that he is the greatest of all time.