‘Novak Djokovic a better tennis player today than he was seven years ago’

Shahida Jacobs
Novak Djokovic during a match
Novak Djokovic in action

Novak Djokovic has mastered the art of peaking at Grand Slams and tennis great Mats Wilander believes his improvement as a tennis player over the past few years have been remarkable.

Sunday could be yet another record-breaking day for Djokovic as he will take on Casper Ruud in the 2023 Roland Garros men’s final. Victory for the Serbian will see him become the first man to win 23 Grand Slams as well as the first player to complete three Career Grand Slams.

Djokovic is playing in his 34th Grand Slam final with 16 of those in the past seven years. Since the start of the 2016 season he has won 12 majors with Sunday’s result still pending while he won 10 from 18 finals from 2007 until 2015.

The Serbian seems to be aging like a fine wine with seven-time Grand Slam winner Wilander explaining during a Eurosport broadcast why Djokovic is such a great player at the ripe old age of 36.

“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 [Carlos] Alcaraz was too good a player for him to hang back,” the Swede said.

“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.”

Djokovic reached the final after defeating Alcaraz in four sets while Ruud booked his third Grand Slam final with a sublime three-set defeat of Alexander Zverev.

The Serbian has dominated Grand Slams along with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer over the past two decades as the Big Three took the sport to a new level.

But despite Nadal’s absence from Roland Garros this year and Federer’s retirement last year, Wilander feels Djokovic and Ruud could deliver a match of the highest quality on Sunday.

“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 final between Djokovic and Ruud will be one of the highest we’ve ever seen.”

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