Novak Djokovic conquers Casper Ruud to cement himself as the GOAT with 23 Grand Slam titles

Novak Djokovic beats Casper Ruud in straight sets to win the 2023 French Open- his record 23rd Grand Slam title.


Novak Djokovic conquers Casper Ruud to cement himself as the GOAT with 23 Grand Slam titles

Novak Djokovic (Image via Roland Garros)

Love him or hate him, you cannot rubbish Novak Djokovic anymore. On Sunday, the ice-cool Serbian slayer conquered Casper Ruud in three sets to win the French Open. The 23rd Grand Slam title was not really loading over the last two weeks in Paris for Novak. There was suspense, tension, and apprehension that the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) was not in peak shape — physically or in sublime form.

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Perhaps, the more the intrigue, the more the suspense, Novak likes to stir it like a classic thriller. Perhaps, some of the best fiction writers will marvel at Novak’s ability to master the conditions and destroy opponents. If you look at tennis as a mental sport, Novak is the king in the mind games. He toys with rivals by just doing things quietly. It’s a bit like driving the knife deep in, where the gash doesn’t bleed. It drips, drop by drop, till death.

At the Australian Open, Novak conquered the pain barrier and a painful hamstring tear. His tennis has been wobbly after that. Not exactly tuned to a nicety where he will roar like a F1 beast. This time, he has been a bit like the old Jalopy. Yet, when the engine is cranked up, stutter, splutter, and finally on cruise control. That has been Novak’s story in Paris in 2023, a summer script that few had thought of after Rafael Nadal was ruled out.

Those who follow tennis felt this would be the perfect fortnight for Carlos Alcaraz, the new kid on the block. No, the youngster choked, he erred, and the man who beat him had to be Novak in the semi-finals. Up against Casper Ruud, Novak was aware, he was looking at the Paris skyline, hoping to create history.

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This man does not show emotions always. He bottles it up a lot, though, these days Novak talks of time running out. He also talks about how family time is more important. Be that as it may, an aging Novak is like the best single malt whiskey for which you pay a big price. You are left smacking your lips, rolling the liquid with your tongue, before it enters the stomach walls. That is the brand of tennis Novak has been playing even on a surface that is not his “pet” one.

To be sure, the more one thinks about conditions, like Daniil Medvedev, the more problems it creates. Novak believed in playing tennis, without thinking about the ball, bounce, speed, and weather. He is ready to adjust his game as per the requirements, for, his fundamentals are so strong. He may be in his mid-30s, but his sculpted body is still a place of worship. That reason alone enables him to push, grind and destroy rivals. Novak was not rude, but Ruud felt out of sorts in the final.

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Novak Djokovic- the undisputed GOAT?

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic (Image via Roland Garros)

One can push, and one can try, but against Novak, there is a need to be in a different zone. Sample this, in Rafa’s absence, Novak has changed gears on clay. Bookmakers never gave him the heads up. Tennis fans in Paris were not on the best behavior towards Novak. Well, the gentle Serbian never minded it. He has gotten used to adjusting to adversity and taking it in his stride. Either a superhuman does it or a monk in meditation.

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What or who Novak resembles is left to the imagination of fans. He has serenity and he has that killer streak in him. Yet, to grind to the 23 Grand Slam title mark and emerge as the greatest ever is not just history. It is momentous, it is joyful, it is historic. It is a landmark that will be so hard for anyone else to match up to. Dreamers can think of Rafa coming back in 2024 and winning a Grand Slam title. Well, the way Novak is playing, it looks so hard. To win the Australian Open and the French Open in 2023 is a repeat of what Rafa did in 2022. The big difference is, Novak looks hungry. Crossing the Channel and entering London should be easy for him. The Championship awaits him.

Can he keep pushing like this, nonstop? Appear so, as Novak is in orbit. Such domination has not been seen. None in the Big 3 was so emphatic, so powerful, so vibrant. The other two guys, Rafa and Roger Federer got more love, more adulation.

Perhaps, the defining moment which men’s tennis needed to settle all debates has happened. And the best part, Novak is not in the mood to stop winning. Only he can do this, slice through the field and leave others gasping. Bring on the champagne, and clap for the hero, the GOAT. There is no more debate, please!

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