Roland Garros Week 2 Summary

Report by Telegraph Sport and Simon Briggs at Roland Garros.

After the Big Four, there were the Big Three and then the Big Two. But now that Novak Djokovic has defeated Casper Ruud in the French Open final, he stands alone as the undisputed emperor of tennis.

This victory carried Djokovic into unprecedented territory as the first man to win 23 major titles, as well as the first to claim at least three trophies at each slam. His statistical domination of the sport feels increasingly Bradmanesque.

How high will Djokovic push his tally?

Novak Djokovic playing tennis

Right now, he feels like the odds-on favourite to complete the calendar slam this year by notching up an eighth Wimbledon and a fourth US Open. He will be the first to do it if he gets there since Rod Laver in 1969.

Whatever feats await this supreme champion, June 11, 2023, marks the end of a decade-long argument among tennis’s greatest generation.

Roger Federer (41) has already retired. Rafael Nadal (37) is off the tour indefinitely, with little prospect of regaining his former glories.  At 36, Djokovic dominates younger rivals. His physicality and laughably superior skill-set contribute to his ongoing success.

His list of majors now stands equal to that of Serena Williams. Margaret Court  –  who won 24  –  is the only target left. Djokovic had to work hellishly hard in the early stages of this 7-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over the dogged Ruud.

The first set was a cagey slugfest that lasted fully 82 minutes. Ruud made a fast start, snatching a 3-0 lead, while Djokovic  –  his nerves jangling at the prospect of surpassing Nadal’s 22 majors  –  took a while to settle.

Ruud was concentrating on getting the ball up high, out of his opponents strike zone, and making it physical. The turning point came, almost inevitably, in a tie-break. This has been true for a couple of seasons now  –  the arrival of the 13th game triggers a transformation in Djokovic, almost like the moon coming out in Teen Wolf.

Here, he suddenly grew fangs, switching from the solid yet conservative player who had been trading topspin with Ruud to something far more deadly.

Djokovic has now played six tie-breaks over the fortnight, claiming 42 points and losing only 13. He has not made a single unforced error along the way. Ruud actually played an excellent tie-break himself, putting himself in position to win all the early points.

But on each occasion, Djokovic read his intentions and found an answer. It was uncanny. On another hot and humid day in Paris, Ruud kept encouraging chair umpire Damien Dumusois to be sharper on the time-keeping, while Djokovic complained that he was being rushed.

He did look a little heavy-legged at times, but no regular tennis watcher would have been concerned. There have been enough matches over the years where he looked out on his feet, only to surge back irresistibly as if he had been plugged into the mains.

The average rally length in that first set was a massive 6.3 shots per point, as Ruud managed to keep his man pushed back from the baseline. Had he won that set, the Norwegian might have been in business.

Securing the win, Djokovic showcased his full repertoire, emphasizing the powerful forehand that evolved remarkably over his 20-year career.

The tennis quality remained high on both sides. However, there was a slight deflation around Court Phillipe Chatrier after the tie-break conclusion.

It was clear how much Ruud had invested in the first set. Against a player of Djokovic’s stature, the outcome now felt like a formality. And indeed, as Djokovic loosened up, the average rally length dropped quickly.

It stood at 4.92 shots in the second set and a mere 4.39 in the third  –  which saw him firing laser-like forehand winners apparently at will.

After three hours and 13 minutes, Djokovic secured victory. Celebrating, he lay on the clay, donned a “23” jacket, and embraced friends, family, and Tom Brady in his player box.

On returning to his chair, he sobbed into his towel, as he had after his previous major title in Australia. Meanwhile, Nadal tweeted his congratulations.

”Many congrats on this amazing achievement, ” said Nadal. ”23 is a number that was impossible to think about just a few years back, and you made it! Enjoy it with your family and team!”

As Ruud addressed the crowd at the post-match presentation ceremony, he added his own tribute. ”Another day, another record for you, Novak. It is tough to explain how good you are and what an inspiration you are to so many. Congratulations to you and your team, I am sure this one is the sweetest.”

Djokovic now sang his way through the Serbian anthem before accepting a special trophy  –  as well as the Coupe des Mousquetaires  –  to commemorate his new record.

In both French and English, he declared the French Open as his toughest tournament. He urged young people to pursue their dreams, just as he did since envisioning winning Wimbledon at age seven.

Nadal and Federer  –  the two men Djokovic had pursued throughout his career  –  were finally in the rear-view mirror. As the master of the sport, he can lookout now at the open road ahead of him, and consider how far he wants to travel.

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