Novak Djokovic’s triumph in Rome makes him the favourite, ahead of Carlos Alcaraz, to win the men's singles at the 2922 French Open, according to Eurosport tennis expert Mats Wilander.
Having beaten Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on his way to winning the Madrid Open final against Alexander Zverev in the Spanish capital, Alcaraz sat out in Italy because of an ankle injury.
It has been a breakthrough year for the 19-year-old who also took the Miami Open title, beating Casper Ruud in straight sets in the final.
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Speaking to Rudd on Eurosport’s Ruud Talk programme, three-time French Open champion Wilander thinks by missing out in Rome, Alcaraz has handed the advantage to the world No.1 ahead of the Grand Slam at Roland-Garros.
“I think Novak’s preparation for the French Open is perfect. I would much rather have Novak’s preparation than Carlos Alcaraz’s preparation going into the French Open. Winning Rome, take a week off and then come into Paris”, he said.
However, Wilander cannot deny that Alcaraz’s rise has been impressive, with many opponents taking notice of the waves he is making in the game.
“I always feel that it’s really important to have good periods on tour. Especially when you do what Alcaraz has done, which is to win on hard courts, and then you go and win on clay. That’s a confidence boost for the player and it gives respect to the locker room”, he said.
Wilander thinks proving his worth on different surfaces will be key for the development of Alcaraz, saying, “Maybe compared to someone that wins two clay court tournaments in a row, because it carries you as a player with variety, it carries you all the way to the US Open. You win Miami, you now have a chance to win the US Open because you have won on hard court.”
We haven’t had this variation on the men’s tour since the 80s.
Despite praising the impressive teenager, Wilander thinks Alcaraz may struggle to pick up the momentum in Paris, having sat out of action in Rome.
“For me, Alcaraz, what he has done, that confidence is not really going to carry him through the French Open. He’s going to have to start up again, start playing well again, play well in practice and then hope he has good matches in the first few rounds in Paris and now he’s back. For me, Novak he goes in and from the first match on, I’m going to be looking for Novak’s weaknesses”, he said.
Describing Djokovic and Alcaraz as the front runners may be premature though, with Wilander saying “maybe Stefanos Tsitsipas is not so far away either the year that he has had. I’m so excited. We have so many different young players that look differently, play differently. Even ways of hitting the ball.”
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