French Open: ‘Date with destiny’ for Novak Djokovic as he eyes ‘incredible’ 23rd Grand Slam title

Novak Djokovic has a “date with destiny” as he eyes an outright record 23rd Grand Slam singles title ahead of the 2023 French Open final against Casper Ruud, according to Eurosport’s Tim Henman and Mats Wilander.

The two-time champion at Roland-Garros was tested to his limits at times before world No. 1 and top seed Carlos Alcaraz eventually wilted due to cramp in their huge semi-final clash on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Friday afternoon, and now he just has to overcome Ruud to move clear of his great rival, Rafael Nadal, with another major crown.
Ruud, the fourth seed, will represent a serious challenge for Djokovic after he overcame Alexander Zverev in the last four as he looks to win his maiden Grand Slam title on the red dirt in Paris. But the Serb will be the favourite to prevail and make yet more history with a hat-trick of triumphs at Roland-Garros.

The 36-year-old has a huge opportunity to usurp the injured Nadal in the all-time men’s tally on Sunday and Wilander and Henman believe he is in the perfect moment to do so with all of his experience and skill.

“It’s incredible,” Henman told Eurosport when considering the prospect of Djokovic winning a 23rd Grand Slam title.

“The match that he came through against Alcaraz didn’t exactly finish how we expected or how we wanted, but in the first two sets his resilience and attitude were so good.

“You felt the momentum was with Alcaraz, and he got the second set. But as Djokovic has said, he’s just locked in, technically, physically, mentally. Tomorrow is his date with destiny, and I just can’t believe he won’t get the job done.”

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Wilander added: “With Novak, there has to be a great amount of humility and a great amount of confidence. The humility comes through when he arrives on the court and decides ‘I need to dictate’ as Alcaraz was too good a player for him to hang back.

“It’s very easy to come up with a game plan, but to commit to it and execute it, on that stage? Everybody wanted Alcaraz to come back and win, I think, because he’s the new star, so that was another mountain for Djokovic to climb.

“I think he’s a better tennis player today than he was six, seven years ago. It doesn’t mean you win more just because you are better because I think he’s learned how to focus and peak for the Grand Slam tournaments more.

“I think it’s a good thing that he’s not out there playing all the time and playing too many matches because he’s able to peak at the Grand Slams. Not many players are able to do that, and he is.”

‘The level today is higher than it’s ever been’ says Wilander ahead of Djokovic v Ruud

Wilander also gave his views on having a Grand Slam final without either Roger Federer or Nadal, and he was clear that the level now is as high as it has ever been – if not higher.

“It’s exciting because the level is higher today than the level was two or three years ago, that’s for sure,” he said. “Just because Djokovic, Nadal and Federer hung in there for so long and were at the top of their game for 15-20 years, that doesn’t mean the level isn’t as high today as the three of them in their peak.

“The level today is higher than it’s ever been. If you know tennis, the matches today are incredibly physical and incredibly quick with so much spin. They serve unbelievably well, and I think the level of tennis in the finals between Djokovic and Ruud will be one of the highest we’ve ever seen.”

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On June 10 and 11 strap yourself in for a live sport rollercoaster ride. With the finals of Roland-Garros, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Speedway Grand Prix, the UCI Mountain Bike World Series, the Criterium du Dauphine, MotoGP and the Champions League final, it’s the Weekend of Champions live on Eurosport, discovery+ and BT Sport.

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