Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2022

Carlos Alcaraz ‘fractionally ahead of Djokovic’ claims former British No.1

Carlos Alcaraz has regained his place at the top of the ATP rankings, and former British No.1 Tim Henman believes the Spaniard is the favourite going into Roland Garros.

Alcaraz moved back to the top of the rankings after taking to the court in Rome, but after winning his first match fell to a shock defeat to qualifier Fabian Marozsan.

The 20-year-old has only ever played Novak Djokovic on one previous occasion, and Henman believes the potential of them facing one again at Roland Garros is ‘incredible’.

“It would be an incredible match to watch,” said Henman. “Djokovic’s standard is so high and we expect him to play brilliantly every day, but it’s not that easy. His career at this stage is about the majors, but he has been building up his timing and resilience for the Grand Slams.”

He continued, “I’m sure, come the start, he will be one of the favourites. I would put Alcaraz fractionally ahead of Djokovic because he has played more tennis and had some good results on clay.”

“Djokovic’s career is now just about the majors and he is building his fitness and level of play. The level of these two is just a little bit higher.”

Alcaraz and Djokovic’s only previous match was on the clay of Madrid last year, with the Spaniard coming out on top, and with the Serb falling down to No.3 in the rankings the pair could play as early as the semi-final of the Paris major.

Henman also listed some of the other contenders for the second major of the year, but did not mention Italian Open champion Daniil Medvedev.

“Behind is [Casper] Ruud, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, [Holger] Rune, [Jannik] Sinner and [Andrey] Rublev – who won his first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo; they’re all great clay-court players. The strength in depth is incredible. But Alcaraz and Djokovic are the two clear favourites,” claimed the retired Brit.

Henman continued to praise Alcaraz, who has only lost three matches all year and has won three clay court titles in 2023.

“Physically, he is on a different planet, but he also shows a lot of skill. It is a joy to watch him play; he is paying the best tennis of his life at the moment,” claimed the former Roland Garros semi-finalist.

Henman added, “Alcaraz has won six tournaments this year and the way he played in Madrid and Barcelona, he is full of confidence. He has taken tennis to a whole new level which we didn’t think was possible after witnessing the ‘big three’ in the past.”

The 48-year-old revealed his only concern for Alcaraz is his fitness due to his ‘physical game’, drawing comparisons to Rafael Nadal.

Henman explained, “I think he can win it [Roland Garros] and I’m sure he will win it in the future. The only thing I worry about in the long-term is him physically and how his body will hold up over 15 years.”

“I thought the exact same thing with Rafael Nadal, though, because of his physical game and his knee and foot problems, but then he has had such a long career. To me, if he is healthy, he will be the world No. 1 for a good few years.”

Carlos Alcaraz at Roland Garros

Despite all of his success, Alcaraz has only played in the main draw of Roland Garros on two occasions.

Here is how he has performed:

Roland Garros main draw win-loss record: 6-2 (75%)

2021 – Lost in the third round to Jan-Lennard Struff, 4-6 6(3)-7 2-6

2022 – Lost in the quarter-final to Alexander Zverev (3), 4-6 4-6 6-4 6(7)-7

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.