There certainly are three favourites coming into Roland Garros, and all Alcaraz, Medvedev and Djokovic will fancy their chances without the imperious Nadal to worry about.
I’m really feeling the hype for the current darling of the tennis world: Carlos Alcaraz. He captured the imagination with last year’s scintillating US Open victory and he has quickly turned into one of the most formidable clay-court players in world tennis.
He reached the quarterfinals here last season and just defended both his Barcelona and Madrid titles. He did suffer a surprise defeat to Fabian Marozsan in Rome. The Hungarian qualifier actually set the template for success against Alcaraz, matching him stride for stride in terms of baseline aggression.
Still, I think Alcaraz probably didn’t mind an early Rome exit. It has given him the perfect little period to recharge his batteries ahead of this year’s French Open. I think he has an exceptional chance of winning his 2nd Grand Slam title.
Medvedev is an interesting conundrum. The 2021 US Open champ and 2022 Aussie Open runner-up obviously has the cojones for the biggest stages.
And he has dispelled lingering concerns regarding his clay-court prowess with an astonishing victory in Rome (his maiden clay-court title). That victory in Rome took his season win-loss record to an astonishing 39-5.
That includes a season-leading five ATP Tour titles. The Russian should feel absolutely primed for an unforeseen French Open title charge (especially given the absence of 2022 Aussie Open conqueror Nadal). But I still don’t think Medvedev has what it takes to win a Slam in Paris.
It’s a much different proposition converting those three-set tournament victories into Grand Slam success. And that’s especially true on clay. Medvedev has played more tennis than anyone this year and I think he will struggle in the latter portion of the tournament.
He has never gone beyond the quarterfinal stage here and I find it hard to see him lifting this year’s trophy.
That leaves us with this year’s biggest quagmire: Novak Djokovic. The Serb has seen and done it all before. He has often gone into Slams with dubious form and emerged victorious.
That’s just how he is built. But something feels a little different this year. He hasn’t reached a final in four events since the Aussie Open. Additionally, he has failed to go beyond the quarterfinal stage in each of his last three events.
He also seemed to be suffering with a leg issue during his Rome quarterfinal defeat to Rune. But the Serbian legend has been known to ‘exaggerate’ injuries before (remember his hamstring issues during this year’s Aussie Open).
I wouldn’t be too fazed by news of injury. And he should feel hugely motivated by the prospect of going to 23 Grand Slam titles on his own. I think we will see a revitalized Djokovic, desperate to take advantage of Nadal’s absence.