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Djokovic: “Alcaraz is the favourite of Roland-Garros because…”

Djokovic is not sure that his experience will balance the Spaniard’s recent form

Novak Djokovic (Serbia) during a training session of Roland-Garros 2023 Novak Djokovic (Serbia) during a training session of Roland-Garros 2023 – Zuma / Panoramic
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Some might say it’s a way to put pressure on the opponents. Others might respond that it is an opinion based on the latest results on clay. Either way, Novak Djokovic made a spectacular statement in Paris in front of the media at Roland-Garros, stating that Carlos Alcaraz was the favourite for the second Grand Slam of the year.

“You have big names, of course, like Alcaraz, he’s No. 1 in the world, and probably the biggest favorite in the tournament,” said Djokovic during a press conference on Saturday.

When he was asked to preview the tournament ten days after Nadal’s withdrawal, Djokovic said, “You know, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and (Daniil) Medvedev, they have started playing great on clay. And (Holger) Rune, (Casper) Ruud, (Alexander) Zverev, knows how to play big events, can always do damage against anybody. So, I think the tournament is quite open, to be honest. Maybe a few guys that are at the top of the favorites list, but anyone can take it. I’m hoping it can be me.”

Novak Djokovic (Serbia) during a training session of Roland-Garros 2023
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) during a training session of Roland-Garros 2023 – Zuma / Panoramic

Djokovic humbled by Alcaraz and Rune

Urged to give more details on his statement about Alcaraz, “You have already said that Alcaraz is the biggest favourite here. Can you explain why? Why not, for example, you that are more…” Djokovic didn’t let the reporter finish his sentence. “Because he’s No 1 in the world, and he’s a player that won big titles on clay this season,” the Serb said in reference to Alcaraz’ titles in Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Madrid.

“So right now, he is the biggest favourite regardless of the fact that he has one Grand Slam and I have 22. I mean, still, we look at the last few months and the kind of shape and the form that he’s having and that I’m having, I think he’s a slightly bigger favourite.

“Experience is on my side, but how much will that play a role in eventual head-to-head if I get to play him or not?”

Novak Djokovic

He added: “But then again, Grand Slams are a different tournament, a different sport in a way and the experience is on my side, but how much will that play a role in eventual head-to-head if I get to play him or not? We’ll get to see.”

“In terms of looking at it from the perspective of the game itself and the form, I think he’s the No 1 favorite now,” he continued.

Asked to comment the potential of the young generation, now aged 20, Djokovic mentioned that he wasn’t able to beat Alcaraz and Rune is the near past. “I lost both of the matches that we played against each other to (Rune), and to Alcaraz as well, the only one we played against each other,” Djokovic said, forgetting his win against Rune at the 2021 US Open.

Djokovic on the young gen : “very mature for their age

“They both impressed me on the court, the way they played, moved on the court, the way they handle pressure as well.” Djokovic insisted on Rune’s potential, the Dane having eliminated the Serb in Rome recently.

A lot of people are talking about this new big rivalry between Alcaraz and Sinner because they had some epic matches in the last 12 months. Rune is a player that deserves to be in that mix, he deserves to be mentioned as one of the leaders of the next generation, one of the best players in the world, because his tennis and his quality that he possesses and results that are now better and better, are a testament to how good he is.”

Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Spain's Carlos Alcaraz at the 2022 Madrid Open
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz at the 2022 Madrid Open Image Credit: AI/Reuters/Panoramic

“These guys are very mature for their age. With Alcaraz, obviously you have (Juan Carlos) Ferrero who is a former world No 1, someone who had the reputation of always being very serious, very disciplined, and he went about his business in a proper manner. I think him being with Alcaraz from, I think, age of 14 or 15 was a fantastic decision for Alcaraz and it’s great news to have somebody who is going to mentor and guide you and introduce you to professional tennis. So, it’s obviously working extremely well.

“Then Rune, he has Patrick Mouratoglou who is one of the best coaches around and someone who is also very smart, he’s had so much success with different players, both on men’s and women’s tour. They got good teams. It’s always important to have that one person that you can rely on that can really give you an inspiration and motivation, but at the same time, someone who has been in your shoes or someone that can really understand what you’re going through. I think that’s essential for a young player in order to face adversities and all the challenges that you have on the way.”

Novak Djokovic starts his Roland-Garros against Alexander Kovacevic, an American player with Serb origins.

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