Novak Djokovic Has the Momentum to Challenge in Paris
The clay courts of Roland-Garros have not been the kindest to Novak Djokovic over the years but the world number one is rightly regarded as a serious contender for the French Open title this season.
Having cruised his way to victory at the Australian Open crown at the start of 2023, Djokovic will next have a third French Open crown of his career firmly in his sights, as he goes in search of a clean sweep of the Grand Slam titles this year.
Impressive Melbourne Run is a Warning to Rivals
There were signs in the second half of 2022 that Djokovic could hit the ground running this season and the Serbian star certainly did not disappoint at the Australian Open. As of 9th February, Djokovic is the 6/4 favourite in the tennis betting odds to win the 2023 French tournament and it’s easy to see why. The 22-time Grand Slam champion was in fine form in Melbourne and his dominance on the way to winning the Australian Open for the tenth time in his career will have come as a warning to his fellow competitors. Seeing off the improving American Tommy Paul, before beating the highly rated Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final, Djokovic looked comfortable throughout his high-pressure matches in Victoria.
There just seems to be no slowing down for a player who is set to turn 36 just before the start of the French Open in May. Winning his first Grand Slam tournament back in 2008 at the Australian Open, few would have expected Djokovic to show the consistency needed for this type of career. This year’s Aussie Open win put Djokovic alongside rival Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slam titles and the battle between the pair to become the outright leader will continue this year. Based on his start to 2023, it would be little surprise to see Djokovic surpass his rival’s major title tally and what a statement it would be to do it at Nadal’s beloved French Open.
Djokovic and Nadal on Collision Course in Paris
Djokovic and Nadal have had some great battles over the years and with the pair approaching the end of their playing careers, every encounter must be savoured by fans of the sport. Nadal impressed at the start of 2022 as he managed to win both the Australian and French Open titles, before injury hampered his progress for half of the season. Reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon before being forced to withdraw injured from his match with Australian Nick Kyrgios, Nadal then crashed out of the US Open in the fourth round to the American Frances Tiafoe. The Spaniard’s start to this season has contrasted to Djokovic, with Nadal again being hindered by injury before leaving the Australian Open in the second round at the hands of Mackenzie McDonald. A 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 defeat to the American brought Nadal’s Aussie Open title defence to an abrupt end and it was soon revealed a hip injury would rule him out for up to the following eight weeks.
While Nadal’s preparations building towards the 2023 French Open have been far from ideal, Djokovic will certainly know better than to take anything for granted against the “King of Clay”. Nadal managed to secure a remarkable 14th French Open title last year, with the 36-year-old enjoying the record for the most titles at a single Grand Slam. The physicality of the play on clay has always suited the Spaniard since he claimed his first title at Roland-Garros all the way back in 2005.
Djokovic has two French Open crowns to his name in his illustrious career, following Parisian success in 2016 and 2021. Going on titles, it has been his weakest Grand Slam event over the years but one that he will still believe he can win this time around. While Nadal has been struggling with niggling injuries over the past 12 months, Djokovic has been able to avoid any serious issues.
With his form looking strong and with his fitness still impressive for a veteran on the circuit, it’s little surprise Djokovic looks to be the man to beat when the latest instalment of the French Open arrives this year.
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