Novak Djokovic goes for a historic 23rd Grand Slam against Casper Ruud

(CNN) — For years, the “Big Three” of men’s tennis (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic) have captured Grand Slams, each with their own reasons for being crowned the greatest men’s player of all time.

Now, with Federer retired and Nadal injured, Djokovic has a chance to reclaim his rights in that never-ending debate and win a record 23 Grand Slam titles on Sunday at Roland Garrossurpassing the score he currently has with Nadal.

Casper Ruud hampers Djokovic, who has now reached three of his last five Grand Slam finals, including last year’s final at Roland Garros, where he was beaten 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 by Nadal.

If Djokovic wins on Sunday, he will also return to the top of the world rankings and become the first male player to win every Grand Slam tournament at least three times. That pressure, however, is familiar to the Serbian, he said after his semi-final victory.

“History is always something that hangs over me, but I’m very happy to be in this position to write the history of the sport,” he said, according to the ATP Tour. “I’m just thinking about winning the next match.”

“The pressure is always on my shoulders, so it won’t be any different. But it’s part of my sport, part of my life, everything I do. I think having pressure is a privilege. But it is also a source of motivation. Great motivation to play well and make it to Sunday,” she added.

Novak Djokovic defeated Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals.
Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images

It was a relatively easy ride for Djokovic, as he lost just two sets: one to Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals and another to No. 1 seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals.

That match against Alcaraz had been heralded as a classic, but Djokovic ultimately grabbed the win after the young Spaniard cramped early in the third set, with the match ultimately ending in a set apiece.

The Serbian has been imperious at the Grand Slams for the past three years, a loss to Nadal at last year’s French Open the only blemish in the majors in which he has been able to compete.

But lining up against such a dominant player is a familiar position for Ruud, as he faces an opponent looking to break or extend his record total of Grand Slam titles for the second year in a row.

“Last year it was against Rafa, this year it is against Novak, so what can you say? They are two of the toughest players ever,” Ruud said after his semi-final victory, according to The Guardian.

The 24-year-old Norwegian hasn’t even won a set against Djokovic, losing all four of his games, and that stat ensures he will come on as an underdog, although he can now build on experience from two previous Grand Slam finals.

Casper Ruud was beaten by Nadal in the Roland Garros final last year. Lisi Niesner/Reuters

“It’s definitely going to be tough,” Ruud said, according to the ATP Tour. “He’s going to be playing for his 23rd. I’m playing for my first. So I’ll try to play without pressure and just try to enjoy the moment.”

“I think that was my mentality last year too (against Nadal), and it didn’t work for me. Obviously I would like to try and do better than last year. Let’s see if I learned anything from the previous two (Grand Slam finals) I played last year. It’s good to be back,” he said.

Despite entering the tournament after a mixed start to the season, Ruud found his form, winning for the first time against a top-10 player at a Grand Slam when he defeated Holger Rune in the quarterfinals and knocked out Alexander Zverev in the semis .

That semi-final performance will propel Ruud into the final as he looks to beat the odds and clinch his first Grand Slam title.

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