How Novak Djokovic came into the French Open without being considered the favourite seems like a difficult concept to grasp in the aftermath of his straight-sets victory over Casper Ruud in the Final by a score of 7-6(1). 6-3. 7-5.
The Serbian tennis legend has now captured his record-breaking 23rd major title, ending his stalemate with rival Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is also back to being the No. 1 ranked player on the planet, adding to his 387 weeks at the top of the men’s game.
While Djokovic looked ever-so-much as the most dominant player in the game during his impressive run to his third title at Roland-Garros, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that he would once again hoist the Coupe de Mousquetaires given his play of late.
Djokovic limped into Roland-Garros this year surprisingly failing to make it past the quarter-final of either of the Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Rome. Whether his play was hampered by his troublesome elbow or that perhaps he was just shaking off the rust of missing the sunshine double in March is tough to say, but Djokovic certainly upped his game at the right time in Paris.
During his run to the French Open title, Djokovic saved his best tennis for when it mattered the most. In all, he played six tiebreaks during the tournament and never came close to losing any of them. According to tennis journalist and author Bastien Fachan, Djokovic made a total of zero unforced errors in all of those tiebreaks combined.
Read also: Coming Up Short at Roland-Garros
After the final, Casper Ruud began his post-championship concession speech by hitting the right note, sharing some really kind words towards Djokovic and summarizing the moment for his opponent with clearcut precision.
“Another day, another record for you. And another day you re-write tennis history once again. 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.”
Djokovic in his post-match speech, meanwhile, was his typical humorous self.
“I wish you really all the best,” he said to Ruud and then added with a smile, “I wish you to win against anybody except me!”
Despite his “advanced” age, Djokovic was the one who seemed to manage his body the best en route to his third French Open title. In his highly anticipated semifinal clash with then No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, it was the 20-year-old who physically hit a wall with full body cramps, while Djokovic looked far fresher than his 36 years of age. That match ended with a whimper in the final two sets as Djokovic would even up his career head-to-head against Alcaraz with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 win.
Djokovic ended his on court interview following his win in the final with some inspirational words for any young tennis fans watching:
“I was a seven year old dreaming that I could win Wimbledon and become No.1 in the world one day… And I just want to send a message out there to every young person, be in the present moment, forget about what happened in the past, the future is something that is just going to happen but if you want a better future you create it. Take the means in your hands. Believe it. Create it.”
The Rest of the Field
No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev reverted back to his pre-2023 form on clay and, despite his recent win in Rome, was taken out in the opening round by Thiago Seyboth Wild in five sets.
Strong results were achieved by Alexander Zverev, who made the semifinal at the French for a third consecutive year. Zverev was another player, like Ruud, who hadn’t enjoyed the strongest lead-up to the clay court Slam yet took his game to another level when it mattered the most.
Lesser-known players who had solid runs in Paris include Sebastian Ofner who made it through qualifying and into the Round of sixteen. Ofner sees his ranking shoot up 37 places to No. 81.
Read also: Shapovalov outlasts Nakashima
Juan Pablo Varillas, who is also 27 years old like Ofner, similarly made it through his first three main draw matches including wins over Roberto Bautista Agut and Hubert Hurkacz in successive five-set affairs, before falling to Djokovic. Varillas also makes an impressive rankings jump to No. 61 which is up 33 places from his previous position.
Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek made it look easy in their 6-3, 6-1 victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille in the men’s doubles final. The fourth seeds won their first ever Slam title as partners although for Dodig it represents a seventh major title in doubles and a fourth at Roland-Garros. For Krajicek, it was a first-ever major title that has now taken the American doubles specialist to the No. 1 ranking on the ATP.
It was a frustrating French Open for Felix Auger Aliassime as the 22-year-old fell in the opening round in straight sets to veteran Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. Auger Aliassime was stricken with stomach issues during the match as well as a shoulder injury that had bothered him coming into the event. His entire clay court swing was one to forget and as he drops out of the top ten following his result in Paris, the grass court season can’t come soon enough for the talented Canadian.
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