For many years, the top three players in men’s tennis – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic – have dominated grand slam tournaments, with each making a case for being considered the best male player of all time.
Currently, with Federer having retired and Nadal being injured, Djokovic has the chance to assert his own position in the never-ending argument and secure his 23rd grand slam victory on Sunday at the French Open. This would surpass his current record held jointly with Nadal.
Casper Ruud, who has made it to three of the past five grand slam finals, including last year’s Roland Garros final where he was defeated 6-3 6-3 6-0 by Nadal, is the obstacle in Djokovic’s path.
If Djokovic is victorious on Sunday, he will reclaim the top spot in the world rankings and become the first male to achieve at least three victories in all four grand slam tournaments. Despite the weight of expectations, the Serb expressed that he is accustomed to such pressure after his semifinal win.
According to the ATP Tour, he stated that history is a constant presence in his mind, but he is thrilled to have the opportunity to make history in this sport. He is solely focused on winning his next match.
I constantly feel the weight of pressure on my shoulders, and that won’t change. However, it’s an integral aspect of my sport and my life. I believe that having pressure is a privilege. It also serves as a strong motivation for me to play at my best and make it to Sunday.
Djokovic has had a straightforward path to the final, only losing two sets – one against Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals and one against top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals.
The highly anticipated match between Alcaraz and Djokovic was expected to be a thrilling one. However, Djokovic easily won after Alcaraz experienced cramping at the start of the third set. The match was tied at one set each.
In the past three years, the Serb has dominated in grand slam tournaments. The only exception was his defeat to Nadal at the French Open last year, as he has consistently performed well in all other major tournaments.
Facing an opponent who is seeking to either break or extend their record grand slam title total for the second year in a row is a familiar scenario for Ruud, as he lines up against such a dominant player.
“Last year it was against Rafa, this year it’s against Novak, so what can you say? It’s two of the toughest players in history,” Ruud said after his semifinal victory, according to the Guardian. “I’ve got to be the underdog like today, playing without too many feelings, just try to enjoy.”
The Norwegian, who is 24 years old, has never managed to win a set against Djokovic. He has lost all four of their matches and this difference in performance guarantees that he will enter the court as the lesser favored player. However, he can now use the knowledge gained from his two previous appearances in grand slam finals.
According to the ATP Tour, Ruud stated that it will be a challenging match. He acknowledged that his opponent is competing for their 23rd win while he is aiming for his first. Despite the pressure, he plans to focus on playing without stress and savoring the experience.
Last year, I had a similar mindset when facing Nadal and it didn’t turn out well. I hope to improve upon my performance from last year. I will see if I have gained any knowledge from my previous experiences in major finals. It’s a great feeling to be back.
Although he had a shaky start to the season, Ruud has managed to regain his prowess and secure a victory against a top-10 player at a grand slam for the first time. This was evident in his quarterfinal match against Holger Rune and his dominant performance against Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.
The semifinal show will inspire Ruud for the final, as he aims to defy expectations and win his first grand slam championship.