Carlos Alcaraz, one of the main candidates for the French Open crown, is the man to defeat on clay, according to the world’s top player, Novak Djokovic.
After starting an injury-plagued season with the Buenos Aires crown, Alcaraz won back-to-back claycourt championships in Barcelona and Madrid. After the current Italian Open, Alcaraz is positioned to overtake Djokovic as the number one player in the rankings.
Fears are increasing that Rafa Nadal, a 14-time winner at Roland Garros, may miss the Paris Grand Slam due to a hip ailment he sustained during the Australian Open in January.
Djokovic, 35, told journalists in Rome that Alcaraz deserved to be ranked first.
“He’s going to be number one after this tournament whatever happens. Deservedly so,” he added. “He has been playing some very impressive tennis, a great level. He’s the player to beat on this surface, no doubt.
“Of course, it depends on if Nadal is going to play in the French Open or not. But Alcaraz is one of the top favourites without any dilemma.”
Djokovic said he planned to revive his rivalry with U.S. Open champion Alcaraz with a potential final match on the cards in Rome. Djokovic skipped the American hardcourt swing because he was unvaccinated for COVID-19.
“We faced each other only once last year in Madrid,” said Djokovic, who lost that match in three sets. “If we get a chance to face each other here, it would be in the final. I think we would both love to play in the final.”
The 22-time Grand Slam winner revealed he overcame a right elbow issue that prevented him from competing in Madrid. He faces Tomas Martin Etcheverry later on Friday.
“It’s all good. There’s always some things here and there that bother you at this level. It’s normal,” Djokovic said.
“When you’re not 25 anymore, I guess you experience that a bit more than what used to be the case. It takes a bit more time to recover.”