Who is the greatest player in tennis history? There will probably never be a good answer to this famous question, because it is too subjective. Statistically, however, the case is closed. Novak Djokovic won his 23rd major tournament on Sunday and stands alone at the top of men’s tennis history. And that’s just the beginning.
The destinies of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will be eternally linked. The three will have had a considerable impact on their sport. The three will have offered two decades of domination, which have become privilege and rivalry.
Thanks to this victory in the final against Casper Ruud, in three sets of 7-6, 6-3 and 7-5, Djokovic will however have taken a distance on his two biggest rivals. Not only does he lead the race for grand slam titles, but he is also the only one of the trio to have won at least three times each of the four major tournaments. By his versatility, his consistency and his longevity, he has proven why he deserves to regain the world number one again.
“It’s no coincidence that I win my 23rd grand slam title here,” said the champion in impeccable French, sporting a red Lacoste jacket suggesting a rather ostentatious ’23’ drawn with crocodiles. been the toughest tournament to win.”
His demonstration on the Philippe-Chatrier court, under the watchful eye of Tom Brady, Kylian Mbappé and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was spectacular. Ruud offered a much more sustained opposition than expected, even suggesting, at the start of the match, that Djokovic might have his big moment stolen.
Few games start at lunchtime and end when it’s time to prepare supper. However, in the first round, the trend was favorable to such a scenario. It was played in 82 minutes. Like The Last Supper, the painting was majestic. Like Da Vinci, Djokovic managed to go down in history. Two geniuses, two free spirits, two complex technicians, sometimes misunderstood, whose talent and magnificence will transcend time.
In the tiebreaker of the first set, Djokovic did not commit any unforced errors. It was his sixth tiebreaker of the fortnight. In the previous five, he had also committed no unforced errors.
It took guts, and probably a bit of experience, to react like that during the most tense moment of the match. Ruud had been almost blameless. His forehand was smoking hot and his usually weaker backhand responded well. Only his first serve sometimes embarrassed him. However, he was never downgraded. Not even intimidated. The two players offered one of the best rounds of the season. Until the Djoker opens the machine. And at that moment, Ruud didn’t have a chance.
The eventual champion had started his match badly. He trailed 3-0, had his serve stolen early on and forced eight unforced errors after just two games. He was disoriented, flat and unconvincing. He missed shots as trivial as smashes up the field.
You have to give credit to Ruud. The 24-year-old had done his homework. His plans were well put together, his sequences were well determined and his instinct served him. His signature forehand worked like a charm and his opponent was overwhelmed. Perhaps a little surprised by such opposition.
However, to beat a tenor of the magnitude of Djokovic, over three sets moreover, to be sufficient is to run to his loss. You have to be extraordinary, exceptional. In fact, you have to be perfect.
Ruud was not and it backfired. As soon as Djoko saw the breach, he was unstoppable. By the turn of the second set, for a while, he had won 20 of the last 25 runs.
The Serb was in full possession of his means. Solid on serve, varied on the forehand and brilliant tactically. His game-winning 15 and 15-to-17 first-ball ratio in the second set should be enough of an argument.
The more the game progressed, the more comfortable the Serb was. He won both the long exchanges in addition to making his rival pay with winning sequences of two or three racquet strokes.
In the third round, much more contested than the second, Djoko cracked Ruud first. He broke it at 5-5 en route to the 23rd triumph.
“Another day, another record for you,” Ruud said to the winner after the game. You still find a way to rewrite the history of tennis. It’s hard to find the words to explain all this success. You are an inspiration to so many people around the world. »
Ruud lost for the third time in his career in the final of a major tournament. Unfortunately for him, the context has never been favorable to him. Last year, he faced Rafael Nadal, the greatest clay-court player in history, at Roland-Garros.
A few months later, he faced Carlos Alcaraz, the sensation of the moment and the best player in the world, in the final of the United States Open.
Then, on Sunday, he was a privileged witness to history.
His time will come, however. The fourth racket in the world has too much potential to end his career empty-handed. Statistically, he has been the best player on the planet on clay since 2020. When Nadal and Djokovic are officially no longer in the picture, we can expect to see him shine in turn.
“You are one of the best people on the tour. It’s important in today’s world to keep your good values, Djoko told him in the middle of his thanks that lasted nearly 10 minutes. I’m sorry for today’s result. You have been one of the most consistent players in recent years. […] I wish you to win against everyone, except me! »
For Djokovic, the quest is not over. She begins. Now that he has 23 titles in his pocket, two more feats are within his reach.
First, win the calendar grand slam. That is to say, win all the major tournaments during the same season. The feat has not been achieved since 1969. With the first two tournaments of the season in hand, Wimbledon and the United States Open are in his sights.
Then he will certainly want to climb to the first rank in history for the number of major titles, regardless of gender. He is now tied with Serena Williams and the ultimate record belongs to Margaret Court, with 24.
If he manages to achieve his two feats, the debate regarding the identity of the best player in history would become somewhat clearer.