Novak Djokovic quelled a tough challenge from Casper Ruud to win in three sets to claim his third French Open men's singles title and a historic 23 Grand Slam title that broke the tie with Rafael Nadal and made him the oldest player to win the title in Paris.
Djokovic came back from 1-4 in the first set to force a tie-break and then won the next two sets to prevail over his Norwegian opponent 7-6(1), 6-3, 7-5
Djokovic overcame a strong start from Ruud on Court-Philippe Chatrier to seal his historic victory. The third seed delivered a high-class tie-break display to claim a first set in which he had trailed 1-4 before producing some of his purest hitting of the fortnight in the second and third en route to a three-hour, 13-minute triumph.
With his win, the three-time Roland Garros titlist Djokovic also reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the ATP Rankings from Carlos Alcaraz, eclipsed Rafael Nadal as the oldest Roland Garros champion at the age of 36 years and 20 days and became the first man to win all four Grand Slam events at least three times.
Playing in his third championship match in the past five major tournaments, Ruud battled well but was unable to maintain his scintillating start. The 24-year-old, who also reached finals at Roland Garros and the US Open in 2022, did not win more than two points in a return game after 4-3 in the first set as Djokovic ruthlessly shut down his opponent's efforts to rally.
The first set which lasted more than one hour and 20 minutes set the tone for the final as Djokovic fought back after losing his serve and took the match to the tiebreaker.
The 36-year-old Djokovic was broken on a terrible overhead miss in the second game after Ruud held on love. The Norwegian started with a 2-0 advantage, after winning a 10+ minute game that had five deuces and which saw Ruud inch ahead in the end on his third opportunity.
The fourth-seeded Ruud managed to consolidate his break advantage and went up 3-0 by holding his serve.
However, Djokovic claimed his first break of the contest as Ruud fumbled an overhead. He went on to win the next two games, coming back from 1-4 down to level scores 4-4. Ruud then saved a break point en route to making it 5-4. However, despite a sensational point from Ruud which he won thanks to a tweener off a Djokovic lob that gave him a 0-30 advantage, Djokovic managed to dig deep and steer the set to the tie-breaker and grabbed the first set 7-6(1) in 1hr 21mins.
As in his earlier wins against Marton Fucsovics and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Paris, the early tie-break victory appeared to help Djokovic zone in as he maintained his stellar level in the early stages of the second set. He raced to a 3-0 lead by consistently winning the extended exchanges against Ruud, redirecting the Norwegian's power to devastating effect.
Ruud battled admirably to regain his foothold in a match that looked to be slipping away from him rapidly, but Djokovic's break in the second game proved enough for him to move further clear. The Serbian dropped just five points behind his serve in the second set as his precise delivery pinned Ruud back and restricted the 10-time ATP Tour titlist's opportunities to forge a comeback.
(With inputs from IANS)