Djokovic: “Carlos Alcaraz is the best player in the world this year”

The world No 1 says Alcaraz will be one of the favourites to win in Roland-Garros

Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz, Madrid 2022 Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz, Madrid 2022 © Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

Novak Djokovic got a close up look at Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid last week, losing out in a brilliant three-set semi-final encounter.

And the world No 1 saw enough to know that the 19-year-old, who also beat Rafael Nadal in the quarters and Alexander Zverev in the final, is a major force right now, not just for the future.

“He definitely is special,” Djokovic told reporters in Rome, where he begins his title bid on Tuesday against Aslan Karatsev.

“I mean, already he’s breaking a lot of records as a teenager, you know, winning two Masters events this year, a couple of 500s. So far he’s the best player in the world, no question, this year with the results that he’s been doing.”

Djokovic was edged out in a final-set tiebreak by Alcaraz, who went on to win the Madrid title, and the Serb said the way the teenager held his nerve in the important moments stood out most of all.

“The way he was dealing with the pressure, I mean, in our match few days ago, how calm he was all the way till the (end), was impressive,” he said. “He deserved to win the trophy.

“Everything about his game is really impressive. He’s a really complete player, can play equally well offensively and defensively. He’s the talk of the sport.

“Roland Garros, he’s definitely one of the main favourites, no doubt. With everything recently that he has achieved, he deserves to be one of the favourites.”

Djokovic happy with his own form

Djokovic looked back to his normal self in Madrid and said he was happy with the way his game was coming round after his traumatic start to 2022, missing the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19.

After a quarter-final defeat in Dubai, he lost his first match in Monte-Carlo but reached the final in Belgrade and then played well in Madrid.

“I think it’s closer to desired level every week,” he said. “Madrid, even though I lost in semi-finals, I still think I played really good tennis. Felt physically hundred percent, even after almost three-and-a-half-hour battle against Alcaraz. I recovered well the next day, was ready to go. That’s a positive and encouraging factor prior to Rome and also, of course, the big goal which is Paris.

“I think I’m in the right direction. I know I can always play better, and I know that I’m very self-critical on the court. At the same time, realistically looking, I think the tennis, quality of tennis, level of tennis, is really high now.

“Hopefully I can maintain that level throughout this week and build, go deep in this tournament hopefully – that’s the goal – and come to Paris well-prepared.”

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