Novak Djokovic dropped to the ground, spread his arms and enjoyed the huge cheers of the spectators. The Serbian superstar crowned himself the sole record winner at the French Open with his 23rd Grand Slam title and once again wrote tennis history. In a high-class final on Sunday in Paris, the 36-year-old defeated the Norwegian challenger Casper Ruud in 3:13 hours 7:6 (7:1), 6:3, 7:5. With football icon Tom Brady and football greats like Kylian Mbappé as noble fans in the stands, he triumphed for the third time in his seventh final at the classic clay court.
Djokovic left the Spaniard Rafael Nadal behind in the ranking of the Grand Slam titles. In the women's category, only Margaret Court (24) from Australia has won one of the four major tournaments more often.
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.
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.
When Djokovic complained to the referee a little later that he was announcing the score too early and thus reducing the break when changing sides, the spectators booed passionately. Not the first time in this tournament. "I don't care," said the argumentative Djokovic before the final about the recurring whistles. "It's not the first time and it probably won't be the last. I just keep winning."
The friction seems to goad Djokovic. In the decisive phase of the first sentence, the focus 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.