Rafael Nadal will do everything he can to play at the French Open this month, but he admits he has a decision to make on his involvement after crashing out of the Italian Open on Saturday.  

Nadal – a 10-time champion in Rome – suffered a resounding 6-1 6-3 defeat against Hubert Hurkacz on the clay, the Pole producing a polished performance to halt his run in the second round.  

The Spaniard has said he will likely call time on his glittering career at the end of the season, having been troubled by hip and abdominal injuries in recent years.

The 37-year-old was also beaten by Jiri Lehecka in the last 16 at the Madrid Open last month, and he acknowledges he is currently some way short of the level required to challenge for a record-extending 15th French Open title.

Speaking after Saturday's defeat, Nadal said: "The time has come to make a decision, in case I might not play Roland-Garros. 

"One is to say, 'okay, I am not ready, I am not playing well enough'.

"Another is to accept how I am today and work the proper way to try to be in a different way in two weeks. If I have to say which side I lean towards, it's to try to play it and give my best.

"Physically I have some issues, but probably not enough to say no to playing in the most important event of my tennis career."

The year's second grand slam begins at Roland Garros on May 20, with the men's singles final taking place on June 9. 

Coco Gauff believes winning a medal at the forthcoming Paris Olympics would be "equal" to winning a Grand Slam.

The world number three was forced to miss the Games in Tokyo three years ago after testing positive for COVID-19, and is eager to sample the "once-in-a-lifetime experience".

The tennis events will be played on the clay of Roland Garros, where Gauff will be bidding for a second major title at the French Open later this month.

And the reigning US Open champion is looking forward to competing, though she admits her preparations will be unprecedented.

"For me, the Olympics is a top priority. I'd say equal to the Grand Slams," Gauff told reporters at the Italian Open, where she will face Magdalena Frech in the last 64.

"I wouldn't put it above or below just because I've never played before. This is my first time. Obviously, I always want to do well, try to get a medal. But the preparation is going to be interesting, because I've never done the grass to clay transition before.

"I'm not putting too much pressure on it because I really want to fully indulge in the experience. Hopefully, I can have it many times in my lifetime. I'll treat it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Before that, Gauff is focused on getting ready for the French Open, where she was runner-up to world number one Iga Swiatek two years ago.

The 20-year-old will step up her preparation at the Italian Open this week, aiming to build on her run to the round of 16 at the Madrid Open last time out, where her run was ended by compatriot Madison Keys.

"For me, it's just about serving better than I did last week," she added. "I feel the other parts of my game are improving. If I can work that through, I think it'll set me up for a very good Roland Garros."

Rafael Nadal is unsure as to whether he will be fit enough to feature at the French Open.

Nadal is embarking on a swansong season, having indicated he will retire after the 2024 campaign.

The 37-year-old is set to make his farewell appearance at the Madrid Open this week, with his campaign starting against American teenager Darwin Blanch on Thursday.

Nadal, now ranked 512 in the world, has played just five Tour-level matches this year, as he makes his comeback from yet another injury lay-off.

And the 14-time Roland Garros champion acknowledged on Wednesday that he would be unlikely to play at the French Open should it be taking place this week.

"If I was in Paris today, I wouldn't go out to play," he said.

"I don't think I'll be able to play at 100 per cent, but it's important to be able to play for the last time in Madrid.

"It means a lot to me to play on this court where I've had some great moments."

Thankfully for Nadal, the French Open does not take place until late May, giving him time to get fit.

"If I arrive in Paris the way I feel today, I will not play," he said.

"I will play Roland Garros if I feel competitive. If I can play, I play. If I can't play, I can't. It won't be the end of the world or the end of my career. I still have goals after Roland Garros, like the Olympics.

"Few weeks [ago], I didn't know if I would be able to play again on the professional tour. It's not perfect but at least I am playing and I can enjoy again, especially in the tournaments that are so emotional for me.

"I'm able to enjoy the fun that I can say, probably, goodbye on court. Without trying to confuse anyone, I don't know what's going to happen in the next three weeks.

"I'm going to do the things I have to do to be able to play in Paris. And if I can, I can and if I can't, I can't. I'm going to Paris if I feel like I'm good enough. I'm going to Paris if I feel capable enough to compete."

Nadal played three times in Brisbane in January, losing to qualifier Jordan Thompson and subsequently missing the Australian Open.

He featured twice in Barcelona earlier in April, losing to Alex De Minaur in the round of 32.

Nadal has won five titles in Madrid, though, and the tournament holds a special place for him, as he underlined his determination to compete.

He added: "Some moments I find myself enjoying being on court, playing against the best players again and I feel myself, more or less competitive, and other moments I feel limitations and it’s difficult.

"The goal is to be on court, enjoy it as long as possible. I mean, that's the thing, enjoy the fact that I will be able to compete one more time on the professional tour and here at home in Madrid, a place that gives me everything in terms of support.

"I am here giving myself a chance. If at some moment my situation improves, if I am able to find better feelings in my body, I need to be ready."

Rafael Nadal's French Open haul is the only record in sport that will never be broken, according to Richard Krajicek.

And the former Wimbledon champion believes Nadal could yet add a 15th Roland Garros title in what is set to be his final year on the circuit.

Indeed, Krajicek believes Nadal's great rival Novak Djokovic would even be hoping to see the Spaniard succeed again in Paris.

While Djokovic's 24 singles grand slam triumphs edge out Nadal's 22, his performances at the clay-court major are unmatched.

Nadal has 14 French Open titles, losing only three times in 115 matches at the event.

Although he did not compete last year, as Djokovic earned his third Roland Garros championship, a winning return in 2024 would provide a fitting conclusion to a legendary career.

"It would be great for Nadal to go for the clay and win one more French Open," Krajicek told Stats Perform.

"I think every record in sports or in tennis can and will probably be broken. I'm pretty sure the only one that will never be broken is the 14 French Open titles from Rafael Nadal. I don't see how somebody can win 14 titles."

Of the possibility of one last win for Nadal, Krajicek added: "It would be just incredible.

"I think everybody in tennis, probably including his competition, Djokovic or [Carlos] Alcaraz, would love for Rafa to win one more French Open."

That is a realistic aim, according to Krajicek, although he does not see Nadal competing for the top prize at either Wimbledon or the US Open.

"For me, [the French Open] is the only one. If he wins any grand slam, it's that one," the 1996 All England Club winner said. "I don't think he'll ever win Wimbledon again, also not the US Open.

"I don't know how good his body is, but the feeling and how much he played or how little he played... I think, for me, only the French Open. Roland Garros is the only one he can win."

Asked for his reflections on Nadal's legacy, Krajicek replied: "I think his legacy will be of a great champion, number two in grand slams, so one of the greatest ever, unbelievable.

"A great person, humble person, and probably the biggest fighter we've ever seen in any sports arena, in any sport. Just an incredibly mentally strong athlete."

Novak Djokovic still remains the favourite to win any tournament he enters and is capable of winning six more grand slams before the end of next year.

That is according to former Wimbledon winner Richard Krajicek, who told Stats Perform he considers Djokovic the sport's all-time greatest.

Djokovic won three majors last year and reached the final of a fourth, but he was knocked out of the 2024 Australian Open at the semi-final stage.

Jannik Sinner defeated the 10-time Melbourne champion in four sets before beating Daniil Medvedev in the final, seeming to usher in a new era for tennis.

However, Krajicek insists Djokovic is far from done as he continues to pick and choose which tournaments he enters. 

"Five or six years ago, I was wondering how long he's going to maintain his level, but he's still doing it," Krajicek told Stats Perform.

"He played very few tournaments last year and still managed to be number one. 

"I doubt that he's going to stay number one for long if he only plays 11 or 12 events because then you basically have to win every event.

"But for me, he's still going to win one to three grand slams a year, for the next two years at least."

Wimbledon was the only major at which Djokovic fell short last year as his streak of four straight titles at SW19 came to an end against Carlos Alcaraz.

Krajicek, who won the tournament in 1996, believes the 36-year-old remains the man to beat in this year's competition.

"For sure, at Wimbledon," Krajicek said when asked if Djokovic is the favourite. "The French Open and the US Open has more competition. 

"It's difficult as there are more strong, fit players like Medvedev, Sinner and Alcaraz. 

"That will be very difficult to win the US Open, but for me, he is still the favourite to win Wimbledon."

Djokovic won his 24th grand slam singles title when triumphing at the US Open last September with victory over Medvedev in the final.

The world number one is two in front of Rafael Nadal for the most majors won by a male in the Open Era, while the retired Roger Federer finished on 20.

On that basis, Djokovic is the greatest of all time in the view of Krajicek, who also cites his longevity.

"For me, he's the best player that ever played the game," the Dutchman said. "He has won every grand slam at least three times. 

"He's won 24 grand slams, and he's also won four grand slams in a row previously. Those are just incredible stats. 

"He's been number one for over 400 weeks, and I think Federer is the next one with about 310 weeks. 

"So, for me, Federer and Nadal are unbelievable players, but Djokovic is just a little level higher."

Rafael Nadal is unlikely to match Novak Djokovic's haul of 24 grand slam titles, but the Spaniard is capable of capping his remarkable career with one last Roland Garros triumph next year. 

That is the opinion of Feliciano Lopez, who hopes to see Nadal overcome his injury woes to enjoy a triumphant send-off in 2024.

Nadal's total of 22 grand slam titles is only bettered by Djokovic among male players, with the Serbian matching Margaret Court's overall record by winning the US Open.

Djokovic has won three of four grand slams in 2023, with injuries leading Nadal to miss the last three majors after he was eliminated from the Australian Open by Mackenzie McDonald in January.

Nadal confirmed earlier this year that 2024 would "probably" be his last year on the tour, and former world number nine Lopez is desperate to see his compatriot go out on a high.

Asked if Nadal could add to his 14 French Open titles – a single-slam record – next year, Lopez told Stats Perform: "With Rafa, you never know, because he has shown on other occasions that he was able to come back stronger, even when he had significant injuries. 

"It will depend a lot on how he feels physically, that will be key. I wouldn't be surprised to see him competing at a good level next year and I would love for him to say goodbye by winning Roland Garros. 

"It would be a dream for me and many people to see him lift that cup once again.

"It is very difficult for me to talk about Rafa, because he has changed the way we see sport in Spain. Before Rafa we had great athletes, but none transcended sport the way he has.

"Rafa's figure in Spanish sport and in the lives of Spanish people… there will be none like him. 

"There have been many joys that he has given us. He has given us examples in many situations outside of sports. There will be a before and after [Nadal] in Spanish sport."

While Nadal now looks highly unlikely to match the evergreen Djokovic for total grand slam titles, Lopez does not believe that will concern the 37-year-old.

"The issue of numbers and who is bigger than who fuels the media a lot," Lopez added. "At this moment in Rafa's life, I don't think he is thinking about that.

"With the numbers, we can see who won the most things, but that is not the question. I want him to return so he can compete again for one last year at the highest level. 

"Hopefully he wins one or two more grand slams, but right now, his goal is to recover and be physically competitive. 

"That is what Rafa needs and wants, because if he is not feeling well enough to compete, it will be very difficult for him to be able to play many tournaments next year." 

Rafael Nadal's impact on tennis has been "tremendous" but Marion Bartoli believes he already has a natural successor in Carlos Alcaraz.

The 22-time major champion confirmed he plans to retire next year following a decorated career that has seen him claim nearly every major honour in tennis.

His exit would leave just one of the sport's 'Big Three' left, in Novak Djokovic, following Roger Federer's retirement last year following the Laver Cup.

While Bartoli feels Nadal's legacy speaks for itself, she also suggests the rise of Alcaraz, who took his second grand slam at Wimbledon earlier this month, might mitigate his departure from the world stage.

"[His impact is] tremendous, but in some ways for him, because Alcaraz is Spanish, it almost feels like the torch has been passed," the 2013 Wimbledon champion told Stats Perform.

"[It is] the new generation that is starting to win, starting to be the best in the world. It might feel less like he's leaving tennis.

"Look at Roger. In Switzerland, there is nobody coming after [him]. In Spain, there is already somebody winning. Rafa will probably accept that, but it's never easy to walk away from something you have done for many years.

"That you have been so successful, that is part of your DNA, part of you, something that everybody recognises you for [in] being that amazing champion at Roland Garros."

Bartoli believes Nadal's decision has been made with an eye on the future, and acknowledges that the physical cost of his profession has to be considered.

"It's not easy to say that you're not going to play at Roland Garros again," she added. "That's just what you have to recover from. I think Rafa has been laying out his future really well.

"He's going into business, he's a father now. He has so many things to look forward to, but he has to preserve his body enough, so he doesn't have pains that stop him from living normally.

"As an athlete, when you walk away from your career, you don't want to have damaged your body so much that you can't even enjoy normal things in normal life.

"Rafa is at that point where he has to think whether it's worth giving it a final go or whether it's not worth it because it will damage his body long term."

Novak Djokovic might have won the French Open, but Gilles Simon does not foresee too many more grand slam victories for the world number one.

Djokovic overcame Casper Ruud 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 7-5 at Roland Garros on Sunday to claim his 23rd major title, taking him clear of Rafael Nadal (22).

The Serbian turned 36 last month, however, and speaking before the tournament, former world number six Simon suggested Djokovic must enjoy the major triumphs while they are here.

Simon pointed to the now-retired Roger Federer and Nadal, who will retire next year, as prime examples of top players being unable to retain their level beyond the age of 37.

"There's a lot less serenity and so he's into his own thing," said Simon, speaking to Stats Perform at the Roland-Garros eSeries by BNP Paribas.

"[Djokovic winning the French Open] will stop the GOAT, not the GOAT debate. In fact, it won't stop it, but at least we'll stop talking about this famous number of grand slam records and we'll understand that, in the end, there are those for whom the best player is the best on the court, but he's already the one who has the best stats.

"Of course he doesn't have the easy road in the sense that he has not ten years in front of him. In other words, he's [winning] two more grand slams, maximum. It's not easy, so he better win slams now.

"He does not have time. He's 36, he's struggling and it's easy to see why. Roger, 37 years old, nothing after that. Rafa, 36 last year [37 now], and nothing after that. Novak will be no exception to the rule.

"Rafa, the last grand slam he won (2022 French Open), it was very hard physically. Novak, he's won several grand slams with the adductor tear, elbow, abs, whatever. It's been a long time since they won a slam by rolling over everyone, as they did before."

Novak Djokovic became the most decorated men’s tennis player in grand slam history with his French Open success on Sunday.

The 23rd major title of his career broke the record he jointly held with Rafael Nadal and here, the PA news agency looks at his record and how he compares to his rivals.

King of the grand slams

Djokovic has won 10 Australian Opens and seven at Wimbledon, with three each now at the French and US Opens.

That makes him the first man ever to win at least three singles titles at all four grand slam tournaments – a measure of his all-round greatness.

Nadal, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson have won each at least twice with Fred Perry, Don Budge, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer the other men with a career slam.

Djokovic’s 10 Australian titles are a record, for the Open era or for a male player – Margaret Court won 11 women’s singles titles, seven of them in the amateur era.

He is the only man other than Nadal, with 14 French Open wins, to reach double figures at a single slam. Federer holds the record of eight at Wimbledon, with no man winning more than seven US Open titles, or five in the Open era.

Djokovic has won six of the last eight major tournaments he has played and three in a row and will head to the next, Wimbledon, as a four-time defending champion – a run dating back to 2018, with the 2020 tournament not being played due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since that wipeout, his only grand slam defeats came to perennial champion Nadal at Roland Garros in the 2022 quarter-final and at the US Open in 2020 – when he was disqualified for hitting a ball girl with a ball – and 2021 when Daniil Medvedev beat him in the final to end his dream of a calendar year grand slam. He is chasing that goal once more this year.

Djokovic has won 88 per cent of his grand slam matches, 348 of 395, and will surely pass 400 matches and 350 wins by the end of the year – more than likely during Wimbledon next month.

The big three

Federer was the first of the modern ‘big three’ to truly push forward the level of elite tennis, winning 16 of his majors by January 2010 when he completed his fourth Australia Open success.

At that point he had reached eight straight finals and at least the semi-final in 23 consecutive slams. He went on to extend his run of quarter-finals to 36, stretching from Wimbledon 2003 to the 2013 French Open.

His last major title came at the 2018 Australian Open, with Djokovic denying him another in the Wimbledon 2019 final before Federer retired last year.

Nadal’s 22 titles have of course been compiled primarily in Paris, with 14 titles from 18 visits. He won nine out of 10 from 2005 to 2014 and five out of six since 2017 before missing this year’s event due to injury.

One of the exceptions came when he withdrew due to injury before his third-round match in 2016, meaning he has lost only three matches at Roland Garros – two to Djokovic, in the 2015 quarter-finals and the 2021 semis and Robin Soderling in 2009’s fourth round – while winning 112.

The Spaniard has four US Open titles and two each at Melbourne and Wimbledon. The 2010 US Open made him the youngest man, aged 24, to complete a career slam.

Djokovic has now surpassed both men on the statistics sheet and with Nadal, 37, battling injury troubles and set to sit out the rest of this season, it seems Djokovic’s longevity and all-round quality will establish him as the consensus best of all time.

Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek confirmed their supremacy by taking home the French Open trophies.

Djokovic overtakes Carlos Alcaraz to return to world number one as a result while Swiatek has shored up a position at the top of the women’s rankings that was in danger.

As the tennis circus moves onto the grass and the build-up to Wimbledon, the PA news agency answers the important questions.

What did we learn about the men’s game?

That Djokovic will always find his best level at a grand slam irrespective of his results in the build-up. The younger generation may be able to beat him over best-of-three sets but best-of-five is another story. With Rafael Nadal out for the season and seemingly heading for retirement, 36-year-old Djokovic looks more dominant than ever.

Could he complete the calendar Grand Slam?

Why not? No man has managed it since Rod Laver in 1969 but the French Open has always been the hardest slam for Djokovic to win. He will be a hot favourite at Wimbledon, where he is trying to tie Roger Federer’s record of eight titles. The US Open has been the most unpredictable slam in recent years, with nerves getting the better of Djokovic the only previous time he had the opportunity to claim the Grand Slam in 2021, but second time around it could well be different.

How will Alcaraz be feeling?

The Spaniard produced some electrifying tennis in Paris but it was a surprise to see him break down physically so relatively early in his semi-final against Djokovic. He was very open afterwards in admitting the tension of the occasion got the better of him. It is easy to forget he is still only 20 and he will no doubt learn from the experience. His talent and potential remain off the charts.

What about Swiatek?

The 22-year-old Pole lifted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for the third time in four years with a tight victory over Karolina Muchova that in some ways feels her most important slam result. Swiatek has shown since racing to the title in Paris in 2020 that she is a ruthless front-runner but fighting through the tough battles has not come so easily. This will be a huge confidence booster.

And the British challenge?

Disappointing to say the least. Only three players made the start-line in singles and of those only Cameron Norrie won a match, with another injury for Jack Draper that rules him out of the grass season compounding the misery. Norrie did well to defeat two French players and the vocal crowd but put in a poor performance against Lorenzo Musetti in the third round.

Is it doom and gloom for Wimbledon?

Not necessarily. The absences of Draper and Emma Raducanu are a blow but Andy Murray has started well on the grass with a Challenger title in Surbiton and Norrie was a semi-finalist last year. All the British women will need wild cards, which is pretty embarrassing, but grass will be an opportunity for the likes of Katie Boulter, Katie Swan, Jodie Burrage and Harriet Dart to push towards the top 100.

Coach Goran Ivanisevic believes Novak Djokovic has “a lot more” grand slam titles in him.

The Serbian broke the record he has been pursuing relentlessly with his 23rd major trophy at the French Open on Sunday, making him the most successful male player ever.

He can equal Margaret Court’s all-time record at Wimbledon, where he will be the hot favourite, and could break it at the US Open, where a first calendar Grand Slam by a man since Rod Laver in 1969 would also be on the line.

That he has reached 23 despite the problems caused by his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19, leading to him being deported from Australia last year and missing the US Open, is all the more remarkable.

“It’s incredible,” said former Wimbledon champion Ivanisevic, Djokovic’s coach since 2019.

“If I go back last year in Australia where all this s**t started and then we didn’t know what to do. And now he’s with 23 grand slams and it’s no end.

“I’m really sorry that Rafa (Nadal) is not here, but I say a long time ago before even I became member of his team that him and Rafa, they’re going to go over 22.

“I am hoping Rafa is coming back winning one more and Novak is the only player who can win the calendar Grand Slam. He was one match away two years ago, so he has a chance this year.

“It’s still a long way. But grand slams are the goal. I don’t know how many, but I think he has in his body a lot more.”

Djokovic’s two children, Stefan and Tara, watched him lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a third time but Djokovic shows no sign of tiring of life on the road or the demands of top-level tennis.

“Sometimes I see it and then he comes on the court and then you’ll see how much he enjoys to practise, how much he enjoys to hit winners, how much he enjoys to work on little details,” said Ivanisevic.

“Winning in front of this unbelievable crowd, unbelievable stadium. He’s keeping his body great, he’s in great shape. Thank God not too many injuries.

“So it’s fascinating to see because sometimes you think, ‘OK, now you have 23’. But he’s going to find, again, some kind of motivation to win 24, maybe 25, who knows where is the end.”

While Djokovic defeated Ruud in the final, his biggest hurdle was getting past Carlos Alcaraz – who he has surpassed again as world number one – in the semi-finals.

After two pulsating sets, 20-year-old Alcaraz was stricken by cramp, ending his hopes of landing a rare meaningful blow for the next generation against Djokovic.

It is very unlikely to be their last grand slam battle and Ivanisevic said: “I love Carlos. First of all, he’s a great kid. And he’s such a well-educated (guy), nice, always laughing, great tennis player, already won a grand slam.

“He’s going to be extremely dangerous. There are few more guys, always (Daniil) Medvedev but Carlos, I love that guy. He’s a fresh air for tennis, how he plays, how he smiles, how he’s happy, how he plays tennis on the court, the ideas, is just amazing.

“For sure he’s going to be a threat. He’s going to be a threat on grass, he’s going to be a threat on hard court, he’s going to be a threat everywhere. But, it’s always this ‘but’. He’s still young. You have Novak and you can’t ever bet against Novak.”

Fourth seed Ruud has now made three slam finals in a year having lost to Nadal at Roland Garros 12 months ago and Alcaraz in New York.

He has won only one match at Wimbledon in three attempts and last year earned headlines for saying grass was for golf.

“It was more of a joke that got taken too seriously,” he said. “I think it’s fun to play. It doesn’t suit my game very well. I feel a little uncomfortable on it.

“But it’s always so fun to come to Wimbledon. It’s maybe the most historic event that we have. So I really look forward to being back there, and this year we’re playing for points again. I’m going to try to be ready and give it my best effort.

“I have become friends. I enjoy being on the golf course and I enjoy being at Wimbledon.”

Novak Djokovic stood proudly at the pinnacle of men’s tennis – and then warned his rivals there is plenty more still to come.

Since claiming his first grand slam title at the Australian Open in 2008, Djokovic has been pursuing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal through the history books, but he has surpassed both having broken the record he jointly held with Nadal by claiming his 23rd trophy at the French Open.

Djokovic’s 7-6 (1) 6-3 7-5 victory over Ruud draws him level with Serena Williams and he could equal Margaret Court’s all-time singles mark at Wimbledon next month.

It is now all but impossible to make the case for anyone other than Djokovic being the greatest male player of all time and, having won six of the last eight major tournaments he has played, at 36 he is more dominant than ever.

“Those two guys were occupying my mind for the last 15 years quite a lot,” he said. “So it’s amazing to know that I’m one ahead.

“I don’t want to say that I am the greatest because I feel it’s disrespectful towards all the great champions in different eras of our sport that was played in a completely different way than it is played today.

“So I leave those kind of discussions of who is the greatest to someone else. I have, of course, huge faith and confidence and belief in myself and for everything that I am and who I am and what I am capable of doing.

“I feel incredibly proud, fulfilled. Of course the journey is still not over. I feel, if I’m winning slams, why even think about ending the career that already has been going on for 20 years?

“I still feel motivated, I still feel inspired to play the best tennis at these tournaments the most. I look forward already to Wimbledon.”

The Serbian also becomes the first man ever to win at least three slam titles at all the major tournaments – a measure of his all-round greatness – while he will overtake Carlos Alcaraz on Monday to return to world number one.

Djokovic arrived in Paris without a title on clay this season but once again has showed that probably his biggest strength is being able to peak when it really matters, both within matches and during the season.

He outlasted Alcaraz in a semi-final that felt more like the de facto final and, although Ruud made much more of a match of it than he had against Nadal at the same stage last year, at no point did the outcome appear in doubt.

Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic has seen it all before. The former Wimbledon champion said: “He has this software in his head that he can switch when a grand slam comes.

“Grand slam is a different sport comparing to other tournaments. The day we arrived here, he was better, he was more motivated, he was more hungry.”

Nerves had got the better of Djokovic the last time he played for the outright lead at the US Open back in 2021 and he lost to Daniil Medvedev.

He made a nervous start here, going 3-0 down, but Ruud lost his break in the seventh game and the tie-break was again where Djokovic really stepped up – in six tie-breaks in Paris, he did not make a single unforced error.

Djokovic kept his foot down at the start of the second set and, although Ruud performed strongly in the third set, he is still yet to win one in five matches against the Serbian.

When the Norwegian’s final forehand flew wide, Djokovic lay down in the clay savouring the moment before celebrating with his support camp and then  apologising for “torturing” them during his on-court speech.

“He is not an easy guy,” Ivanisevic said. “Especially when something’s not going his way. But we are here to put our back (for him) and to get beaten.

“He was torturing us, taking our nails off. A lot more things, but I cannot tell you that. But we are still here, we’re alive. My heart is still OK. I’m an old man, I need to be careful of my heart.

“I’m very proud of him, especially the last two matches. He’s unbelievable, and he’s still moving like a cat on the court. He’s there. Like a ninja, he’s everywhere.

“He takes the legs, then he takes your soul, then he digs your grave and you have a funeral and you’re dead. Bye-bye. Thank you for coming.”

Ruud joins an unwanted club including Andy Murray, Ivan Lendl and Dominic Thiem of players to have lost their first three slam finals, with Alcaraz having got the better of him at the US Open last summer.

The fourth seed took confidence from having overcome a poor start to the season and his own doubts to make it back to the final, saying: “I think this is maybe the most important final that I reached.

“Here I sort of proved that whatever happened last year is not a one-time case. Even for next year when we come back to Roland Garros, people are going to look, ‘Oh, Casper didn’t just make one final but he made it twice’.

“Probably going to plant some respect in my opponents’ eyes and hopefully I can build on that, and one day I’m going to try to obviously aim for a slam title. That’s my biggest goal, my biggest dream in my career and in my life. It’s been close –  close but no cigar.”

Nadal, meanwhile, was among the first to congratulate Djokovic, saying: “Many congrats on this amazing achievement @DjokerNole 23 is a number that just a few years back was impossible to think about, and you made it! Enjoy it with your family and team!”

Andy Murray congratulated Novak Djokovic on his French Open triumph before joking he hoped the 23-time grand slam singles champion would now “take his eye off the ball” in the build-up to Wimbledon.

Both men enjoyed successful Sundays, with Murray stepping up his preparations for SW19 in style with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Austrian Jurij Rodionov in the men’s final of the Lexus Surbiton Trophy.

Murray’s victory earned him a seeded position at Wimbledon next month, with the 36-year-old now eyeing a third title at his home grand slam after lifting the trophy in 2013 and 2016.

Djokovic, meanwhile, moved alone at the pinnacle of men’s tennis by defeating Casper Ruud in straight sets in the Roland Garros final.

“I’m not saying he makes it look easy but he makes it look a lot more easy than it should,” Murray said of the Serbian.

“I am happy for him, he deserves it. When he beat me in the final of the (2016) French Open he lost motivation so maybe he can take his eye off the ball for the next few weeks heading into Wimbledon!

“But congratulations to him – it’s an incredible achievement.”

Murray, who said he was heading up to Nottingham on Sunday evening and planning some “light” practice on Monday, showcased a powerful shot collection to dismantle Rodionov en route to his first title on home soil in seven years.

The Scot’s serve was a vital weapon on the day and his intricate shot selection left his opponent at times scrambling across the turf in the sweltering conditions.

And Murray, who was backed by a fervent Surbiton crowd, began to punish the Austrian with classy forehands which forced errors from his opponent as he took a firmer grip on the tie.

The number two seed continued to bombard Rodionov with a series of quality serves just before a heavy downpour suspended play, which offered some much-needed respite to both players after temperatures reached 29 degrees.

Play resumed nearly three hours later and Murray quickly reasserted himself on his unseeded opponent to close out the match, much to the delight of the Surbiton crowd.

Murray was pleased with his win, but was not resting on his laurels and said he would continue to “strive for more”.

“Winning any tournament is hard,” said the former world number one, who has been plagued by injuries in recent years including hip and abdominal issues.

“The journey of getting back to this point has been tough and I think I played some good tennis at times this week and tennis what will give me a good opportunity, especially if I serve like that against most players and I am excited about that.

“It’s taken a long time to get back to this place and a lot of work with some tough losses, but I’ve kept working and believing.”

He continued: “I didn’t know if I would be playing again, and I am fortunate to be back competing again at a high level.

“I don’t want to downplay this tournament because winning any tournament is great and winning tournaments at any level is not easy, but I still strive for more. I believe there is more in me so hopefully I can achieve that in the next few weeks.”

Earlier, Yanina Wickmayer prevented Katie Swan from securing the British number one spot after coming back from a set down to win 2-6 6-4 7-6 (1) in the women’s final.

In a courtside interview broadcast by the LTA, Swan said: “I feel like it was a high-level match all the way through.

“It was tough because as soon as I dropped my levels slightly she was all over me and I had to maintain that for as long as I could. It was so tough but it was really high level overall.

“She is in unbelievable shape, I don’t know how she can be that good after having a baby. I think it’s incredible what she’s doing.”

Novak Djokovic secured his most significant piece of tennis history with his 23rd grand slam title.

The Serbian defeated Casper Ruud 7-6 (1) 6-3 7-5 in the French Open final to break the men’s all-time record he shared with Rafael Nadal.

It was a third final defeat for Norwegian Ruud, who was unable to take his chances in the first set.

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Women’s singles: Iga Swiatek (Poland)
Men’s singles: Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
Women’s doubles: Hsieh Su-wei (Chinese Taipei) and Wang Xinyu (China)
Men’s doubles: Ivan Dodig (Croatia) and Austin Krajicek (USA)
Mixed doubles: Miyu Kato (Japan) and Tim Puetz (Germany)
Girls’ singles: Alina Korneeva
Boys’ singles: Dino Prizmic (Croatia)
Girls’ doubles: Clervie Ngounoue (USA) and Tyra Grant (USA)
Boys’ doubles: Yaroslav Demin and Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez (Mexico)
Women’s wheelchair singles: Diede De Groot (Netherlands)
Men’s wheelchair singles: Tokito Oda (Japan)
Women’s wheelchair doubles: Yui Kamiji (Japan) and Kgothatso Montjane (South Africa)
Men’s wheelchair doubles: Alfie Hewett (Great Britain) and Gordon Reid (Great Britain)
Quad wheelchair singles: Niels Vink (Netherlands)
Quad wheelchair doubles: Andy Lapthorne (Great Britain) and Donald Ramphadi (South Africa)

Novak Djokovic stands alone at the pinnacle of men’s tennis after defeating Casper Ruud to win his 23rd grand slam title at the French Open.

Since claiming his first at the Australian Open in 2008, Djokovic has been pursuing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal through the history books but now he has surpassed both having broken the record he jointly held with Nadal.

Djokovic’s 7-6 (1) 6-3 7-5 victory over Ruud draws him level with Serena Williams and he could equal Margaret Court’s all-time singles mark at Wimbledon next month.

The Serbian, meanwhile, also becomes the first man ever to win at least three slam titles at all the major tournaments – a measure of his all-round greatness.

Ruud had impressed in making it back to the final, where he won only six games against Nadal last year, and was looking for his first title in his third final having also lost to Carlos Alcaraz at the US Open.

He had failed to win a set in four previous matches against Djokovic, though, and missed his chance here in an 81-minute opener before the Serbian pulled away for his 21st consecutive slam victory.

This was the most humid day of the fortnight and, with black clouds looming, it appeared the match would be played under the roof on Philippe Chatrier only for the cover to be removed just before the start.

Ruud’s best chance was to make a fast start and take advantage of the nerves Djokovic would surely be feeling so close to a goal he has been pursuing relentlessly for years.

On his only previous shot at striking out on his own, at the US Open in 2021, he had rather frozen in sight of the line, losing to Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Ruud had read the script and came out sharp, exploiting Djokovic’s unusually leaden footwork with high shots to push his opponent back and breaking in the second game when the Serbian shanked a smash – the one remaining weakness in his game.

Djokovic had NFL great Tom Brady in his player box, while Kylian Mbappe and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were also in the crowd, and they witnessed Djokovic claw his way back, breaking in the seventh game after a punishing rally that ended with Ruud netting an overhead.

Djokovic refused to miss in another long rally after Ruud created a break point in the next game, but it was the third seed cursing himself for a missed opportunity at 4-4, with his irritation compounded when he lost his balance and fell sprawling to the clay.

Djokovic also complained vociferously to the umpire about the quick turnaround between games as the set extended beyond the hour mark.

The longer it went on, the more important it became to win it, and Ruud was two points away on Djokovic’s serve after winning a point with a tweener lob but that was as close as he would come.

One of Djokovic’s greatest strengths is the ability to raise his level at key moments and he won an absurd sixth tie-break of the tournament without making a single unforced error.

Given Djokovic had won his previous 100 slam matches once he had taken the opening set, it was a crushing blow for Ruud, and that was compounded when he dropped serve in the second game of the second set.

Djokovic now looked fully settled, with his forehand purring, and, although Ruud saved two set points at 2-5, the door was firmly shut in his face in the next game.

Ruud was now clinging on by his fingernails but he was determined not to allow Djokovic to run away with it, as Nadal had last year.

The Norwegian found a better rhythm on his serve and applied some pressure to Djokovic, although he was left cursing his luck when his opponent benefited from a lucky netcord down 0-30 at 3-4, giving the French crowd a final chance for a round of booing.

The question seemed to be when Djokovic would make his move, though, and it came at 5-5, a series of superlative groundstrokes earning him the break, and moments later his moment of history.

Nadal was among the first to hail the Serbian, tweeting: “Many congrats on this amazing achievement @DjokerNole. 23 is a number that just a few years back was imposible to think about, and you made it! Enjoy it with your family and team!”

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