The Parisian Grand Slam measures the uncertainty of the Balearic Islands and the precocity of the Murcian, with Djokovic's long shadow on the horizon
Paris smells like 2005. The year in which a young 19-year-old Rafa Nadal, just turned during the tournament, debuted in the Parisian Grand Slam and won the title in the final against Mariano Puerta. That boy, who received the Musketeers Cup from Zinedine Zidane and who had beaten world number one Roger Federer on the way to the title, began a dynasty in Paris that lasts to this day. The aroma is the same as when Carlos Alcaraz now enters the Bolonia Forest, where from this Sunday until June 5 the reign of world tennis will be settled.
Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz compete in one of the most interesting and hard-fought Roland Garros of recent times, with little clarity as to which of the three is the top favorite and with the tension of knowing that a duel between them is on the horizon. the Serbian and the Balearic in the quarterfinals. Nadal's 13 titles at the Philippe Chatrier are always a sufficient argument to place him as the main candidate in the French capital, but his physical condition, hours before the tournament begins, is an unknown quantity. The Spaniard, who signed the best start to the season of his sports career, with 20 wins in a row, suffered a crack in his rib that kept him in the dry dock for six weeks, missing Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and on his return he could not be at the lowest level in Madrid (fourth) and Rome (eighth) due to discomfort in the chronic injury he suffers in his foot.
Nadal has been training since Wednesday in Paris and is confident that the body, at 35 years old, who will be 36 on June 3, will endure seven best-of-five-set matches. “My foot is better. That's why I'm here. I am ready to play the best I can, "said Nadal, who does not see himself as a favorite. "No, I'm not the favorite at all. I am one of the contenders for the title. Today, I'm not a favourite", acknowledges the man from Manacor.
Nadal will make his debut on Monday against the Australian Jordan Thompson, a priori placid match, before being able to face Stan Wawrinka in the second round, Botic van de Zandschulp in the third and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16. It is in rooms where the swerve comes. Nadal's fifth-seeded status has paired him in the same draw as Djokovic and he could meet the Serb in the quarter-finals, their earliest duel in Paris since the Belgrade player tipped him at this very round in 2015. Alexander Zverev or Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals and Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final complete one of Nadal's most complicated paths in Paris.
The Murcian debuts this Sunday
The options of achieving a fourteenth title are also complicated by the explosion of Alcaraz, who reaches his second Roland Garros as the best tennis player on the clay court tour. After the title in Miami, he hit the ground running in the first round of Monte Carlo, but he soon woke up. Victories in Barcelona and Madrid and rest in Rome to avoid increasing stress on the ankle. The Murcian who turned 19 on May 5 has arrived as number six in the world in Paris and can hit the table that he lacks on the circuit, conquer his first Grand Slam. His route in the table places him this Sunday with a previous tennis player in the first round (the Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero), with Albert Ramos in second, with Sebastian Korda, his executioner in Monte Carlo, in third, and with Cameron Norrie in eighth . From the quarterfinals the challenge reaches another level: Zverev in the quarterfinals, Djokovic or Nadal in the semifinals and Medvedev or Tsitsipas in the final.
The Russian and the Greek have been the most benefited by the draw, since they get rid of the three beasts until the final, although Medvedev arrives in a low level of form, having missed the clay tour due to a hernia, while Tsitsipas He still doesn't know what it's like to win a big one. Aiming to match Nadal's 21 Grand Slam titles is Djokovic, the odd man out of the triumvirate. The Serbian, practically unheard of until the arrival of brick dust, has increased the level exponentially until reaching the ceiling in Rome, with a title that gives him wings ahead of a Roland Garros that he has won twice and in which last year he took away the thorn of winning a Nadal at a good level.
«If you talk about Roland Garros, Nadal is always the favourite. It is true that Alcaraz has been extraordinary this year. I aspire to win all the Grand Slam titles, ”says Djokovic, who also defends the world number one in Paris and who faces a terrifying month with the defense of Roland Garros and Wimbledon.