Novak Djokovic kissed his wife Jelena deeply, hugged his children and hugged noble fan Tom Brady in the stands. At 6:43 p.m., the Serbian superstar happily lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires as a trophy for his 23rd Grand Slam title into the evening sky in Paris and was celebrated as the sole record winner in tennis history.
In a high-class final of the French Open, the 36-year-old defeated the Norwegian challenger Casper Ruud in 3:13 hours 7: 6 (7: 1), 6: 3, 7: 5.
Djokovic creates history
"I'm more than happy in my life that I've won 23 Grand Slam titles. It's an incredible feeling," enthused Djokovic, thanking his family and followers. "You know what we've been through. You know how hard it can be. Thank you for your patience and tolerance." He posed with his family for souvenir photos online, and his son Stefan was allowed to hold the trophy. The magical 23 was already emblazoned on Djokovic's jacket.
With football icon Brady and football greats like Kylian Mbappé as supporters in the stands, he triumphed for the third time in his seventh final at the classic clay court. "I hope you had fun," he told the sports stars. "It's a great honor."
Final opponent Ruud spoke of Djokovic with the greatest respect. "Another day you wrote tennis history. You can't describe how good you are," said the Norwegian. "I'm glad to be the first to congratulate from this stage."
With his 23rd Grand Slam title, Djokovic left the Spaniard Rafael Nadal (22) behind, before he was ahead of Roger Federer (20). "The truth is I've always compared myself to them, they're the biggest rivals I've had," he said of the pair. "They defined me as a player."
Nadal congratulated just moments after the triumph. "Congratulations on this great achievement," Spanier wrote on Twitter. "23 is a number you couldn't think of just a few years ago - and you did it!" In the women's category, only Margaret Court (24) from Australia has won one of the four major tournaments more often. "Wow! Novak Djokovic is the best tennis player of all time!" wrote the Serbian portal "novosti.rs".
"Take control of your own destiny"
After the triumph, Djokovic described his own way into sports history with emotional words. "I want to send a message to every young person. Whatever you want to achieve, whether in tennis or elsewhere: As a seven-year-old, I dreamed of winning Wimbledon and being first in the world," said Djokovic. "I am beyond grateful and blessed to stand here with so many accomplishments. I feel I had the power to take control of my own destiny."
The fact that Djokovic was dealing with history was shown by the occupation of his box in the stands. Wearing sunglasses, Brady sat next to Djokovic's wife Jelena. The 45-year-old's status as the best professional footballer in history is unchallenged. Djokovic also wants to claim this title in tennis ahead of Nadal and Roger Federer. World champion Mbappé had Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the grandstand, France's tennis favorite Yannick Noah, boxing legend Mike Tyson and actor Hugh Grant rounded off the crowd of stars.
The guests of honor initially saw a gripping duel. The 24-year-old Ruud ended Alexander Zverev's dream of his first Grand Slam title with a clear victory in the semifinals. But now Djokovic fought back after a difficult start and proved his extra class and nerves of steel in the tie-break of the first set. After that, he played out the experience in his 34th Grand Slam final.
Ruud continues to wait, Djokovic moves to one
Djokovic is now also the oldest winner in French Open history, ahead of 14-time Paris champion Nadal, who was absent this year through injury. From Monday he will also take over the top of the world rankings from Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, whom he had worn down in the semifinals. It's his 388th week as a leader - of course this is also a record.
Ruud, on the other hand, remains unfinished for the time being. The world number four also lost his third Grand Slam final and is still waiting for the first major title of his career.
With a cloudy sky in Paris, the folding roof over the Court Philippe-Chatrier opened again after the opening show - the spectators welcomed Djokovic with loud "Nole, Nole" calls. The big outsider was initially unimpressed by the goose bumps atmosphere. Last year, Ruud was temporarily shown in Nadal's final. Now the Norwegian posed problems for his opponent with a stable game at the beginning. An overhead ball from Djokovic sailed out for the first break, only after 25 minutes did he make it 1: 3.
As against Alcaraz, Djokovic stayed cool. The ball went back and forth 28 times at the Serb's break point, Ruud also showed nerves for the first time and put the smash into the net to make it 4: 3 from his point of view. For the first time, the spectators in the stands almost stood up with excitement, and Brady jumped up too.
The Serb with the "mental advantage"
In the decisive phase of the first set, Djokovic was there. The Serb played better and better, also winning the sixth tie-break of the tournament for the sixth time without a slight error and celebrating after 81 minutes.
Ruud wobbled, Djokovic mercilessly exploited the weakness. After the break to make it 2-0, he kept tapping his forehead - a clear sign: Djokovic has the mental advantage. He confidently didn't allow a breakball anymore and also got the second set. Ruud kept the third round open for a long time, but Djokovic coldly took the serve from him to make it 6: 5. Only a little later, the Serb should be able to celebrate the great triumph.