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FRENCH OPEN

French Open toughest to win, making Paris record more special, Djokovic says

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Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 11, 2023 Serbia's Novak Djokovic kisses the trophy after winning the French Open REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Novak Djokovic said winning a record 23rd men’s singles Grand Slam title at the French Open after beating Norway’s Casper Ruud 7-6(1) 6-3 7-5 on Sunday was special given that it was always his toughest one to win.

The Serbian has now won the most Grand Slams of any male player and is the only one to have won each of the four – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open – at least three times.

But of the 23 Grand Slams, only three have come at the French Open with rival Rafael Nadal, who has 22 majors, dominating on clay with 14 wins in Paris.

Djokovic has also won ten times in Australia and three times at the U.S. Open while triumphing seven times at Wimbledon.

“It is no coincidence that I won the 23rd Grand Slam here in Paris because this tournament was really in my entire career the toughest to win,” Djokovic, who has played in the Paris final seven times, said to a cheering crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier.

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“A lot of emotions here on this court, also off the court,” he said, after lifting the trophy aloft.

“Thanks one more time for a special atmosphere, a marvellous one. I am very happy to share this special moment of my career with you in this special stadium.”

The 36-year-old won the title without Nadal in the tournament, with the Spaniard missing the Grand Slam due to an injury and surgery that will sideline him for the rest of the year.

Djokovic, who also eclipsed Nadal as the oldest champion in Paris after a tough fortnight, has now won 21 consecutive Grand Slam tournament matches.

He won last year’s Wimbledon, missed the U.S. Open and won in Australia in January before Sunday’s triumph in Paris.

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“I am being fortunate in my life to win 23 Grand Slams. It is an incredible feeling,” he said.

“Whatever you are pursuing, tennis or anything else, I was a seven-year-old dreaming I would win Wimbledon and become No. 1 one day.

“One thing is for sure I felt I had the power to create my own destiny. I felt it with every cell in my body.”Djokovic can now extend his lead in Grand Slam victories with the season moving over to grass and Wimbledon, where he will bid for an eighth title

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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