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Novak Djokovic beat Casper Ruud (7/6 6/3 7/5) during the French Open final on Sunday June 11, 2023.

This Roland-Garros was described as the most open in 20 years by the press before the start of the fortnight. Rafael Nadal’s absence, the uncertainty surrounding Novak Djokovic’s level, Daniil Medvedev’s progress on clay and the quality of Carlos Alcaraz’s tennis. All these reasons convinced the tennis world that the new generation was ready to take over. A fortnight later, the only thing that has changed is the number of Grand Slams held by Novak Djokovic: 23.

The Serb has once again demonstrated his ability to excel at a major tournament. Despite a clay-court season that left much to be desired, the Djoker accomplished his mission. With a third Coupe des Mousquetaires to his name, he became the most successful player in tennis history in terms of Grand Slam titles. The victory also puts him back in the first place of the world rankings. Novak Djokovic remains unbeaten in a major tournament since losing to Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros last season.

Unlike last year, Casper Ruud didn’t miss out on his final. From the very first minutes, he played solid, high-impact tennis. This high level of play was not enough to stop Novak Djokovic in his quest for a record.

A first set under pressure

The Norwegian started the match with a love game. Novak Djokovic’s game was held back by the high stakes of the final. He made several errors due to haste and wrong judgment. Although he managed to save the first two break points that he faced, he gave away the third with a “Djoko smash”: 2/0. Casper Ruud confirmed his break thanks to the depth of his strokes. By refusing to let go of his baseline, he took time away from the Serb: 3/0. Novak Djokovic won his first game with a series of unreturned serves. Casper Ruud dominated the forehand diagonal with the topspin he imparted to his balls. His opponent made mistakes too early in the rallies to worry him: 4/1. Struggling, Novak Djokovic played forward to free his game. Even if some unusual errors persisted, the third player of the world took the time to build up his points: 4/3. He got back his break thanks to a smash by Casper Ruud that landed in the net. The Serb rose his game as the set progressed. The Norwegian didn’t falter at the most important moments. The two players gave blow for blow. The first set went to a tiebreak.

It was no different from any other tiebreak played by Novak Djokovic this fortnight: he won it without committing a single unforced error. He played a flawless tennis on all eight points: covering every inch of the court, finishing his points at the net and putting more intensity into his shots. Casper Ruud was powerless against such a level of play: 7/1.

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The loss of the first set stunned the Norwegian. Despite playing the best tennis of his life, he was unable to win the set. He made a difference on the forehand diagonal with his heavy balls. Casper Ruud even resisted on the backhand side. Novak Djokovic continued to raise his game in the first set. He didn’t hesitate to play forward when he felt dominated by his opponent. The tiebreak illustrates the Serb’s greatest quality: playing his best tennis in the most important moments.

A second set dominated by the Serb

Novak Djokovic started the second set with a love game.  As he returned much better, he put Casper Ruud under pressure. The latter saved three break points before succumbing in the fourth. The Serb produced an astonishing point, alternating between attack and defense: 2/0. Casper Ruud multiplied sliced backhands. Nearly absent from the first set, they reflect a change in dynamic: the Norwegian was forced to defend while Novak Djokovic played a much more aggressive tennis. The latter seemed to be flying on the court. He made no mistakes. The games went by without Casper Ruud having the slightest opportunity to get his break back: 4/2. In the seventh game, the US Open finalist started to play well again. Novak Djokovic tightened up the game to give him no hope: 5/2. Logically, the Serb won the second set: 6/3.

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In the second set, the Serb implemented the kind of tennis that he didn’t manage to play in the first one: he didn’t give away any free points to his opponent, he was aggressive with every shot, and he used the diagonal forehand to his advantage. Casper Ruud took too long to overcome the loss of the first set. For several games, he was trapped in a defensive position. Even when he regained his intensity towards the end of the set, he ran out of solutions to outmaneuver Novak Djokovic.

A third set for history

The deciding set was tighter. Casper Ruud took the lead with his first game of serve. The confident Serb played an aggressive tennis: 1/1. Novak Djokovic didn’t take advantage of his break point. He made two unforced errors that allowed Casper Ruud to stay ahead: 2/1. The Djoker didn’t let his opponent breath during his games of serve. He made a string of forehand winners. The Norwegian matched the level of play in this set thanks to his quality of service: 3/3. Casper Ruud forced himself to shorten the rallies. He took more risks to prevent Novak Djokovic from dictating the point: 4/4. The latter made two errors that exposed him on his serve. Down 0-30, he won the next four points by playing forward with courage. Casper Ruud won his next game thanks to his aggressiveness while Novak Djokovic remained untouchable thanks to the quality of his serve: 5/5. The Serb produced a string of winners to break his opponent at the best time: 6/5. The Djoker served for the title. His opponent no longer had enough depth to withstand his assaults. Novak Djokovic clinched the 2023 French Open.

The third set was tighter than the second one. Casper Ruud regained a level of play worthy of a Grand Slam final, while Novak Djokovic unrolled. It soon became clear that nothing could stop the Serb in his quest for a 23rd Grand Slam title. After 1h20 of play, he systematically hit the right shot. He insisted on his opponent’s backhand side to get short balls that he could attack. The most successful man in tennis history didn’t hesitate to go to the net to remain unpredictable. Casper Ruud fought against a stronger opponent than himself. The consistency of his shots was not enough to destabilize Novak Djokovic. To even have a chance in this final, the Norwegian would have had to reinvent his tennis. Beating one of the greatest players in history in one of the most important matches of his career requires unlimited panache and creativity.  

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This third French Open title makes Novak Djokovic the record man for most Grand Slam titles in tennis history. The absolute record, men and women combined, is still held by Margaret Court and her 24 titles. The Championship, won by the Serbian since 2018, will represent the first opportunity to equal this record.

Marnie Abbou

One thought on “Novak Djokovic got his crown back

  1. Seb helin dit :

    Well put this game analysis ! Thanks for this ! Please keep it up !

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