MIKE DICKSON: Only the weight of history can stop Novak Djokovic winning his 23rd Grand Slam against Casper Ruud in the French Open final
- Novak Djokovic will face Casper Ruud in the French Open final on Sunday
- If he wins, the Serb will overtake Rafael Nadal with 23 Grand Slam singles titles
- The 36-year-old could also become the first man to win each Major three times
At the start of this French Open it seemed there was the possibility of Novak Djokovic getting in his own way again at another Grand Slam.
Scrawling his support for Serbian claims on Kosovo on the camera post-match, it looked like he might get swept up in the febrile political atmosphere that has been a defining feature of this fortnight.
Normal service has been resumed, however, and now the 36-year-old looks poised to take full advantage of Rafael Nadal’s absence.
He will face Norway’s Casper Ruud in Sunday’s men’s final and, at the heart of Nadal’s citadel, it will be a major surprise if he does not move one ahead of the great Spaniard on to 23 Grand Slam singles titles.
With Wimbledon looming, for which he will he heavier favourite than he ever was for Roland Garros, the next five weeks offer the chance of putting clear blue water between himself and his long-standing rival. And there remains no certainty that Nadal will ever play again, let alone add to his tally of Majors.
Novak Djokovic reached the French Open final by beating Carlos Alcaraz
The 36-year-old is now one match away from his 23rd Grand Slam singles title
Carlos Alcaraz admitted after the semi final the Serb’s aura had got to him
Djokovic is far too smart to start talking in terms of doing the calendar Grand Slam, but that will be another item on the agenda if he can beat the 24-year-old from Oslo.
Following the semi-final, Carlos Alcaraz made the stark admission that the Serb’s aura had got to him and Ruud will go in handicapped by the knowledge that in four meetings he has yet to win a set. He is up against someone who has reached 34 finals in the 70 Grand Slam events he has played.
If there is any hope for Ruud it is that he played in the final here last year, falling well short against Nadal and that there is no weight of expectation upon him. The player the Norwegian beat comfortably in his semi-final, Alex Zverev, suggested that this factor should not be underestimated.
‘When you’re on the brink of history that adds a little bit of pressure,’ said the German, referring to the Serb’s collapse in New York in 2021, when he was on the brink of claiming all four Majors in a single year. ‘You remember the US Open final he had with [Daniil] Medvedev. The pressure, you know, we are all human. Novak is human. We all feel it. So for Casper, that’s the best scenario.’
Another record that is on the line for Djokovic is that he would become the first man to win all four Majors at least three times.
‘History is always something that’s hovering over me, but I’m very happy to be in this position to write the history of this sport,’ he said. ‘I’ve had this feeling quite a few times in my career. So I know how I need to handle myself, my emotions, my day tomorrow and to approach the finals in the best possible way.’
If Djokovic wins, he will overtake Rafael Nadal’s tally of Major singles titles
In his way is Casper Ruud, who has made his second consecutive final at Roland Garros
This has been a strange fortnight in some ways and not just because Nadal has not been around to hunt for a 14th title. The crowds have been unusually febrile and if Ruud could get a foothold in the match he is likely to find plenty of support.
Not everyone likes Djokovic, ever a polarising figure and the trophy will he handed out by Yannick Noah, in the 40th anniversary year of him becoming the last Frenchman to win their home Slam. Noah is on record as saying he is among those who fail to warm to the Serb.
Last month, in an interview with La Nacion, he compared him unfavourably with Nadal and Roger Federer: ‘The other two have more charisma. I’m not attracted to him. When he wins a match point I don’t connect with him.’
Ruud is not to be underestimated, however. This will be his second Grand Slam final out of the last three. It is nonetheless difficult to see him stopping Djokovic over the best of five. And all this on the surface which is meant to see him at his most vulnerable.
Source: Read Full Article