When it comes to the French Open, one writes Rafael Nadal off at their own peril, and that’s what Stefanos Tsitsipas has done. The Greek sensation has omitted the “king of clay” from his list of favourites to claim the title at Roland Garros next month.
Tsitsipas was speaking after making the final of the Italian Open, where he was comprehensively beaten by Novak Djokovic. The 2021 French Open finalist was effusive in his praise for the Serb, who claimed his first title of 2022 in Rome on Sunday.
Djokovic’s decision not to get vaccinated saw him miss the Australian Open and the Sunshine Double in the United States. Nadal claimed a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title beating Daniil Medvedev in Melbourne before claiming titles in Acapulco and making the final at Indian Wells.
Nadal was installed as the favourite for the second Grand Slam in Paris after his 22-0 start to the 2022 campaign. However, his preparation for Roland Garros has been rocked by injury – first a stress fracture in his rib following his Indian Wells final loss to Taylor Fritz and then a recurrence of his foot injury in Rome.
The Spaniard admitted that he will be travelling to Paris with his doctor to manage his injury issues, which reduces his chances of claiming a historic 14th title at Roland Garros. Owing to this, Tsitsipas omitted Nadal from his list of favourites, naming just Djokovic and young sensation Carlos Alcaraz.
“Right now Carlos Alcaraz or Novak Djokovic. They both play great, great tennis,” Tsitsipas told Sports Klub journalist Sasa Ozmo after his loss to Djokovic at the Italian Open.
Djokovic is a natural favourite owing to his title triumph at the Italian Open and by being the defending French Open champion. Alcaraz, meanwhile, has earned the nod owing to his sensational form since the start of the 2022 campaign.
The teenager has claimed titles at the Miami Masters and the Madrid Masters while also winning in Barcelona. Many including Djokovic have labeled him the best player in the world at the moment, but it is also understood that playing in a major tournament – in a best of five sets – is a completely different ball game to the ATP Tour.
However, Nadal’s injury does make him an outsider for the title, but no one knows the red dirt of Roland Garros better than the Spaniard. He is certain to be highly motivated to get his 2022 season back on track, and there is no better place than his favourite Court Philippe Chatrier.