If we had used the term ‘The King of the French Open’ a few years ago, one could, quite rightly, argue that this title should be bestowed upon Nadal, the master of clay court and who seemed to cruise to victory year after year. However, it seems that Nadal’s recent injury and absence has paved the way for a new King, Novak Djokovic.
Let’s face it, he’s pretty much the king of the entire tennis kingdom right now anyway! Look at any tennis odds and it’s a certainty that Djokovic will be the favourite.
A Giant Leap
It was 17 years ago that Djokovic took one of the biggest steps of his early career when he managed to reach the quarter-final of the 2006 French Open at just 19 years old. He pushed his way past three seeded players – but lost out to the Reigning champion, Rafa Nadal, and we could see a glimpse of what was to come. Even then, Djokovic pulled out with an injury (while being down 2 sets) but he still insisted he believes that had the match played out, he could have won.
This was just the start of one of the biggest tennis rivalries of all time – which spanned 59 head-to-heads.
Beating the Unbeatable
Djokovic has since proven that Nadal certainly isn’t unbeatable. It was during this year’s French Open, 17 years after his debut, that he managed to overtake Nadal, with his victory giving him a record-breaking 23 grand slam titles under his belt, surpassing Nadal’s 22, and he did it on Nadal’s favourite court and favourite surface, the Stade Roland Garros clay courts.
In the early years, Djokovic was mocked for his physical weaknesses – as he seemed to be prone to injury. However, he is now laughing last… as his robust health and physical condition means he is still, at the age of 36, managing to beat much younger players and retain his number 1 ranking – and there seems no sign of him slowing down any time soon.
Hunting Down the Big Names
When Djokovic entered the scene, he was hunting down some legendary names. In 2011, after winning his first Grand Slam, he was trailing way behind Nadal, with 9 titles and Federer with 16 titles. His entire career has been spent chasing them down. In fact, he admitted that they were the two names that had been occupying his mind for the last 15 years. So, his 23rd Grand Slam Victory when he lifted the Roland Garros Trophy on June 11th this year, must have tasted even sweeter. He caught them… and surpassed them.
No Slowing Down
Just because he has achieved his dream of becoming the most successful player now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t future goals. He doesn’t stop there. If he is still winning Grand Slams, why stop? This year, he won the Australian Open and the French Open already, so he’s halfway to winning the big four, which is his aim for the year. He did attempt this once before, although he fell at the last hurdle, being defeated by Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the final of the 2021 US Open Final.
At this time, it’s very hard to find someone who could stop him. He seems to have the upper hand on both clay court and grass court – and there are no younger players out there right now that are serious rivals.
Long Live the King?
So, is he the new King of the French Open? Right now, undoubtedly. Nadal is past his prime, taking some time out from the sport and confirming he intends to do a farewell season in 2024, whilst Djokovic still seems to be playing at the top of his game – and there are certainly no younger players right now that can give him any serious competition for the title.
Djokovic took one big leap in his career in the French Open in 2007 – and an even bigger leap in the 2023 French Open as he officially became the most successful tennis player ever. Maybe this is his event after all.