Nadal, the record 14 times champion on clay Grand Slam since his first victory in 2005, cited a persistent hip problem that has plagued his season since the Australian Open. The Spaniard has also revealed his intention to retire after the 2024 campaign.
As Roland Garros prepares for an unusual edition without the presence of the 22-time major champion, another tenacious Spaniard has established himself as one of the top contenders, determined to keep a Grand Slam title out of the hands of Novak Djokovic. .
Alcaraz’s path to a potential Paris crown has been paved with triumphs in Barcelona and Madrid. Despite a slight setback in Rome, the 20-year-old finds himself at the top of the rankings for the third time, having risen to the top after winning the US Open last year.
Acknowledging Alcaraz’s remarkable form, Djokovic, who is aiming to clinch his 23rd major title, sees the young Spaniard as the man to beat.
“A new generation is already here,” said Djokovic, the Serbian tennis maestro. “Obviously he’s playing amazing tennis. It’s also good for our sport that we have new faces. We’ve been saying for years that we can expect that time to come when you have a generational change. Personally, I’m still trying to hang in there with all of them. I still want to keep going. Let’s see how far I go.”
Djokovic’s preparation for the second Grand Slam of the season has been less than ideal, marred by disruptions to his schedule. Due to his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID, he missed the Masters tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami. An elbow problem further hampered his participation in Madrid, while physical problems in Rome led to an unexpected defeat against the Danish player. Holger Runewho finished second to Daniil Medvedev.
Although he recognizes the need for a new generation to shine, Djokovic remains a formidable force in the competition.
Munich champion Holger Rune picked Djokovic as his favorite to win a third Parisian title, saying: “If I have to pick a favourite, I’ll probably pick Novak. But it’s more open because we don’t have Rafa this year. Medvedev has shown good signs in this season on clay… For sure, he is one of the favourites.”
Medvedev’s transformation on a surface he once admitted he dislikes coincides with a bumper year for Russia’s former world number one. After winning five titles and finishing second in Indian Wells, Medvedev’s quarter-final in Paris last year demonstrated his ability to perform well on clay. Fluent in French, he is likely to receive support from local fans, who will also be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Yannick Noah’s title, despite slim hopes of a local champion this year.
Last year’s runner-up Casper Ruud has recently returned to his best form winning the Estoril title and reaching the semi-finals in Rome. Monte Carlo champion Andrey Rublev is also among the contenders aiming to make an impact. Stefanos Tsitsipas, who fell to Djokovic in 2021 title clash, continues his quest for a first
(With contributions from Reuters)