BarcelonaAnd enfant terrible rule in world tennis. Admired and criticized, loved and hated, Novak Djokovic has been crowned king of world tennis in Paris, winning his 23rd Grand Slam title on the center court of Roland Garros. Breaking the tie with Rafa Nadal, who was the first to reach 22 titles, the player from Belgrade has overcome a psychological barrier that until now he had not been able to break down. In the past, when he had had a chance to overtake Nadal in the rankings, he had failed, with a surprising loss in the 2021 US Open final against Daniïl Medvedev, when the two players were tied on 20 titles. . The thorn was removed today. He looks up to the sky and sees no one there, he has reached higher than anyone else.
But the barrier has fallen. A new milestone in the career of Djokovic (Belgrade, 1987), who has beaten the world number four, the Norwegian Casper Ruud, in three sets, by 7-6, 6-3 and 7-5. Ruud, a pupil of Rafa Nadal’s academy in Manacor, was looking for his first Grand Slam title and, incidentally, to be able to defend his master’s record, a Nadal absent this season due to injury. And despite starting strong with a 0-3 breaking the Balkan’s serve, little by little it has come undone. Djokovic, who was touching his head after winning key points, as if to explain that the key to it all is in the brain, has focused on the game after a nervous start. He has been getting inside the court, as initially Ruud’s power made him too far from the court and in the second set Ruud’s soul has already crunched, and he has not reacted until the end of the third set, when has rubbed one break which would have put him 5 to 3 ahead. He has not succeeded and the Serb has not forgiven him.
In fact, Ruud has yet to win a single set against Djokovic in the four duels they have played. Djokovic delivered punches with surprising confidence, particularly with his forehand, a stroke he has worked hard on in recent seasons, as his wife celebrated in the stands, accompanied by former American football player Tom Brady. Djokovic has not failed despite knowing that center court was not with him. In fact, throughout the tournament he has been booed and booed by many fans. Some do not forgive him for not wanting to get vaccinated against covid-19, which resulted in him not being able to compete in the 2022 Australian Open, when he was deported by the Australian authorities for lying on the entry form. Others criticize him for his reluctance to protest the referees. He, who in the past criticized the Japanese Naomi Osaka, when she warned about the need to take care of mental health in sport, has more than once proved that Osaka was right by losing the papers. This has not been the case at Roland Garros, where he has made it clear that he is a strongman with a great ability to come back stronger.
A man who has been evolving his game, to adapt it to all playing surfaces. Only on clay, the Nadal feud, wins little. But without the manacorin, he knew he couldn’t fail. He has not failed, adding his third crown in France. In addition, he has won 10 times in Australia, 7 times in Wimbledon and 3 times in the United States, with an average of success in the finals, because he has won 23 of the 34 finals played.
From an empty pool in the sky
Djokovic, who made his professional debut in 2003 aged just 16, was initially an outgoing player who entertained spectators with his imitations of his opponents. But the adversaries knew he was serious, that young man with a complicated past. Born in Belgrade, he started playing near the ski slopes of the Kopaonik region in southern Serbia, where his uncle was a ski instructor and his parents ran a pizzeria for customers on the slopes. Both his father, Srdjan, and his mother, Dijana, made their son a good skier, but everything changed in 1999. That year, after decades of violence in Kosovo, NATO bombed Serbia. The courts were closed and the Djokovics left for Belgrade, where they had to spend some nights in bomb shelters. The young player, who had already discovered tennis, trained for many months in an empty swimming pool near their home, as the tennis club in the New Belgrade area could not open. That 12-year-old boy who used to return strokes against the wall of a swimming pool with the sound of bombs playing in the background is now the player in history with the most Grand Slam titles. And he still wants more, since the next date is Wimbledon, where he has won four consecutive victories. In fact, his challenge is to win all four major tournaments in the same year, a feat he has never achieved. At the moment, he already has two out of four. It doesn’t have the elegance of Federer or the epicness of Nadal. But he has written his way, with ups and downs, until reaching Olympus.
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